That sounds heady, but the appeal of Gonzalez's music stems from its unadorned, understated direct address. On In Our Nature (Mute/Imperial), Gonzalez maintains his trademark tender brevity, but there's a stronger sense of lingering discord brought across through the increased force of his open strumming and plucked bass notes than on his 2003 debut, Veneer (Mute), or the 2005 EP Stay in the Shade (Hidden Agenda). The tension suits a collection of disenchanted songs that apply equally to world affairs and affairs of the heart.
Gonzalez has partly made his name through transformative cover versions of electronic pop songs such as the Knife's "Heartbeats" and Kylie Minogue's "Hand on Your Heart," and on In Our Nature he performs similar wonders with Massive Attack's "Teardrop," using his vulnerable tenor to make the word feathers float and the word breath breathe. Just as contemporary Devendra Banhart can err on the side of poetic whimsy, Gonzalez can tend toward overly literal earnestness.
But both possess special talents. Gonzalez's is pensive. "Abram" uses the figure from the Torah, Bible, and Koran to chide religion, and throughout "Time to Send Someone Away" his recriminations against obesity and war lust are sung in a voice so sweet and soft it's a surprise to realize the words are meant to sting. In Our Nature rivals or even matches the bittersweet wisdom of Caetano Veloso's sublime first album in exile 1971's Caetano Veloso (a Little More Blue) (Philips) on "Down the Line," on which the word compromising gives way to the word colonizing above frantically swaying six-string melodies and rhythms. "Don't let the darkness eat you up," Gonzalez repeats insistently at the song's close. There's paradox in the hopefulness of his ever-beautiful tone, as if a darkness that eats up evil just might be fine.
Mon/8Tues/9, 8 p.m., $25
War Memorial Veterans Bldg.
401 Van Ness, SF
With Tiny Vipers
Mon/8Tues/9, 8 p.m., $20$22
Great American Music Hall
859 O'Farrell, SF
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