Release Date: October 22nd 2012
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Jonathan Thulin, the Swedish native, has released his sophomore album The White Room, in a year where Dream Records have signed many new talents, including Marlene Brehm, Luke Dowler, Evan Craft, and Nicole Croteau. Taking more of a symphonic and anthemic sound as opposed to CCM and pop which was more prominent in his debut album; Jonathan’s release is very unique, exploring many different musical genres and challenging themes, as well as thought provoking lyrics that wrestle with our values and our beliefs. Being one of the most vulnerable and personal alongside Bebo Norman’s Lights Of Distant Cities; The White Room is soulful and inspirational, and as good as any sophomore album that I have heard for a long time; with the songs being so rich in lyrical content that sometimes it needs a few listens to fully grasp and grapple with the unequivocal eternal truths for us!
From an interview with Jonathan, it’s clear to see his dedicated and passionate heart- “…The White Room is very gritty and to the point. I go through issues of hypocrisy in the church, confusion in where I stand as a person and a Christian and the destruction of myself through sin….[but] when I was at the bottom of my life I began to see God’s grace in a much bigger light. I hope people can relate and then make a decision to make the change in their life necessary to… [an] upright way of looking at their faith…” Starting off with “Masquerade”, Jonathan’s standings and convictions are evidently shown among strong and provoking lyrics. It’s also a plus when the music is very unique and different, containing a pulsating drum beat, electronic synths, strings and a anthemic dance feel, as the jam packed opener speaks about Christians wearing masks and not letting our spiritual brothers and sisters see the ‘real’ us; a topic that is very relevant today as some people in this world are not as genuine as they should be- ‘…we are wearing a mask in the truth parade, we are waving our flags upholding this charade; we are hiding while you’re watching…’. With such challenging lyrics, Jonathan directly questions whether we should be vulnerable and expose the inner things we hide with those we love, and in my opinion we should! With sublime gang vocals and an African or Middle Eastern flair, this highlight encourages me to re-evaluate my own life to see if I am genuinely real with my friends and family in all aspects.
2nd is the lead single “Dead Come To Life”, based on the book of Ezekiel, co-written with Charmaine, (famous for her single “Tokyo”) with an equally powerful voice, and in a similar genre to Jonathan. Singing about how with Jesus our lives are given purpose and meaning, and that the spiritually dead and dry come to life with Jesus; such captivating lyrics are present in the bridge, where Jonathan and Charmaine emphatically cry out ‘…we are the dry and thirsty sand upon this dry and thirsty land, but You speak life into the flesh breathing air into the dead…’, and amongst the strings and anthemic drums and beautifully harmonised voices, I am transported to a place where God can move and speak truth to me, and turn my life into something extraordinary! As Jonathan has said in a recent interview; “…in Ezekiel where the Lord tells [him] to speak to the dry bones, God refers to them as the people of Israel… without hope…when he speaks breath into them they will come to life and know that he is Lord…He is the ONLY one who can make the dead come to life…spiritually and mentally as well…”; Jesus is the ultimate life giver, and this fact cannot be sung enough!
It is clear that Jonathan’s niche is ballads, and he performs them all brilliantly! “Coat Of Arms” is one of my favourite tracks as Jonathan sings about identity in Jesus Christ and how sometimes we all struggle with accepting that we are a child of the One True King. Deeper than that, this song is for us to wrestle with and understand what we stand for and believe in, and whether we want to firmly stand even if others are living life in the opposite direction to us. Posing a multitude of questions in this electronic synth fronted haunting ballad, especially in the chorus ‘…What do I live for? Can you tell on my face what my heart beats for, do the words that I speak show it to the core, does my glow outshine the stars? Can you see my coat of arms?…’; we are each met with a decision to whether we believe we can stand for and defend our faith, regardless of consequences. Reminding me of Matthew 5:14, and how we are to be the light of the world and a city on a hill to our friends and loved ones, and anyone else we encounter; this experimental Owl City musical like experience is from left field, but in a very good way! “Graveyard” follows, and once again highlights Jonathan’s exemplary voice. Along with the string and synth work; this defenseless and emotional track seems to be directed to someone in a past relationship that did not work out; obviously Jonathan or the persona (if this song is based on a real circumstance) was gullible and fell for the ‘lies’ that the relationship was based on, but was ultimately heartbroken. But on a deeper level, Jonathan could be singing to the devil (and then praying to God in the bridge to restore his heart); but nevertheless, this poignant and heartfelt piano track is bound to impact many listeners.
All throughout the rest of the album, Jonathan is able to take a central theme and execute it well as he conveys an aspect of the human condition through what he is writing. “Bombs Away” features the gorgeous vocals of Rachael Lampa, and is about how our hearts and actions can sometimes be out of tune with God, and we can lapse into making terrible judgements. Though this is a dark song, in that it reminds me of Paul in Romans 7:15-24, and that the persona is caught in a battle between himself, yet forever searching for answers of what to do with temptation, but ultimately succumbing to it; the music is very eerie and captivating, and the great blend of Jonathan and Rachael’s vocals make this thought-provoker a must for a second or third listen! “Love/War”, co-written with Charmaine, is another track which jumps out at me, as the electronic ballad speaks about how humanity is always ‘killing’ itself with wars, and other atrocities, not to mention people not wanting to share about their feelings, thus ‘wars’ forming within ourselves. Making a statement; Jonathan provides hope in the chorus, as Jesus is singing directly to us ‘…Child put the weapon down, you will be alright somehow, you will be safe and sound, I swear…’; and pleading for a change of lifestyle, which hopefully people will stop, take note and reassess the intricacies of our lives. A potential hit for radio, “Love/War” segues into the emotional tear jerker “Torches”, which is probably the best song on the album. With just a piano to highlight the vocals, Jonathan puts his shoes into that of the leper in the Bible; and turns our stereotypes on their head. Not that my perception of people is back on looks or other discriminatory factors, but this song begs the question to see if we do have any subconscious feelings of superiority to anyone else for whatever reason. Just like how when we fail and fall, we must believe that those around us have our best interest at heart, this song questions and convicts us to be the hands and feet for those who do not have a voice, and not let our preconceived ideas win over Jesus’ love for humanity- “It is so easy to point our fingers at those around us dealing with something outwardly when we have so much going on inside of ourselves. I wanted to write it from the perspective of the leper…who has been cast out and rejected… [because of their disease]. The bridge says “I did not choose my disease; please see the flower in the weeds.”…” There is unquestionably beauty in everything that Jesus creates!
“I Am Nothing” speaks about how we all are dependent on Christ, and that He is everything that we need, and that ‘…finally I’ve found my peace I have nothing left to prove cause trusting you in everything is all that I can do…’. A song of surrender; this piano track with a stirring crescendo, and nearly brings tears to my eyes- it’s that rich in emotion and passion, and I can definitely tell that the Holy Spirit is moving through this song! Jonathan also sings on the album with Elden, a band featuring his brother and sister in law in the track “Soon”, with this quiet, calm, and reflective piece about resting in the Lord, and letting Him stir up and minister your soul. The last song “Peeta” is also very impacting as Jonathan sings about freedom and fighting for what it is ours. Based on the book and movie series “The Hunger Games” (which I have not seen or read!), this metaphorical and abstract pop radio friendly tune brings a smile to my face as this track encourages me to stand up and defend my beliefs. Even if I am ridiculed by the world, I know that God is proud of me and loves me regardless, and that fact can keep me going and pressing on through life!
With a sleek and powerful voice similar to Steven Curtis Chapman, and with a myriad of captivating synth, strings and other orchestral instruments akin to a movie score or an symphonic piece, Jonathan Thulin’s anthemic and epic sophomore release is one to fully savour, with every song a story waiting to be opened and explored. There truly isn’t any music like this (maybe symphonies or instrumental orchestras- there’s such a great blend of instruments!) and also not really an artist to compare him to that has released an album recently. And that is definitely a good thing, one that will keep Jonathan in good stead for the future as he continues to expand his repertoire in music and writing; and continues to majestically create masterpieces from themes and elements put on his heart by God. A real challenger to Newsboys and Bebo Norman on the album release date; The White Room is a must for iTunes, and a real treat is also hearing the sublime and beautiful vocals from Charmaine and Rachael Lampa on two songs, and confronting and poignant lyrics with plenty of food for thought, heart and soul! Well done Jonathan for a rousing and very unique album; that is sure to challenge any who listen!
- Dead Come To Life (feat. Charmaine)
- Coat Of Arms
- Bombs Away (feat. Rachael Lampa)
- I Am Nothing
- Soon (feat. Elden)
Favourite Tracks: Dead Come to Life, Coat Of Arms, Bombs Away, Torches, I Am Nothing