A monolithic piano melody comes sweeping out of the silence with the force of a mighty winter wind, and in its wake, the delicate lead vocal of Mr. Jon Gonzalez starts to fill the air with an aching that is perhaps even more powerful than any of the words he will sing in the next four minutes of play are. There’s a burden on Gonzalez’s back here, and it isn’t going to go away without a fight; in “Holding On,” his latest single, he’ll use any and every tool at his disposal to break away from the pain in the name of connecting with something affectionate and steeped in pure love. His voice is the beacon, his music the bitter darkness that surrounds it, and while there are plenty of ways that one could interpret this song both lyrically and instrumentally, to me, it comes off as being an enigmatic statement piece in an age that has been missing the strain of artistic clarity it offers to us so humbly. “Holding On” is a black and white pop song, but the substance of its melodies is not status quo at all.
From a lyrical standpoint, Gonzalez isn’t doing much of anything that would qualify as being virtuosic in this song – contrarily, I get the vibe that he’s deliberately trying to stay away from the kind of theatrics so many of his closest rivals in and outside of the Seattle scene would just as soon employ in their own work. He’s got too much to convey to simply hide behind a sophisticated sonic display; right from the get-go in “Holding On,” Gonzalez is tethering his vocal to the fabric of the piano’s instrumental chime, which despite being formulaic in the conventional sense is anything but predictable given the context of the music on this occasion. It would be one thing if he were a household name; in this case, he’s merely using a familiar construction to get us acclimated to the more specifically unique components in his sound. It’s a smart way of making a breakthrough single, which this could absolutely become if given the right opportunities to shine somewhere on the FM dial (college radio, anyone?).
If what I’m hearing in “Holding On” is on par with what I can expect to find out of the output we get from Jon Gonzalez’s camp in the future, he’s going to be a player that I would tell any legit indie audiophile to pay attention to this year. Right now, American pop music has reached a crossroads in 2020, and in the time that it would’ve taken an artist to become a genuine figure in any scene around the country c. 2000-2010, the genre itself will be reshaped by independent voices like Gonzalez’s. Seattle is arguably going through a bit of an alternative resurgence at the moment, and though it might not be comparable to the alternative renaissance it once enjoyed some thirty years ago at the start of the 1990’s, it’s producing sounds and songs like “Holding On” that are bound to raise an eyebrow or two well outside of the Pacific Northwest underground.
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