Release Date: March 17th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Time Traveler
- Jekyll and Hyde (feat. Rapture Ruckus)
- Compass (feat. Manwell of Group 1 Crew)
- Science Fiction
- Hat Trick (feat. Derek Minor)
- Cry Wolf
- Fountain (feat. Tauren Wells of Royal Tailor)
- 6 Feet Under
- Mockingbird (feat. Kevin Max & Shine Bright Baby)
- The Ruins (feat. Moriah Peters)
- The Theory
‘…“Authenticity” these days has become pretty planned and unauthentic. Being a complete mess is a reality and something that we should definitely talk about, but we shouldn’t lose the need for God and the longing for him. Authenticity to me is being real about where you are and also accepting where other people are in their walk with God. Not implementing our journey on others but rather sharing our journey in hopes that it will help someone figure out theirs. Be authentic in your love for God and love for others and its crazy how uncomplicated things become…’ Jonathan Thulin, one of the most underrated CCM artists I reckon of the decade of the 2010s, has taken a step into making one of the most mature and poignant sounding albums of his career, and one that stands out and stands tall amongst some of this year’s standouts from artists like Jeremy Camp, Kevin Max, Third Day and I Am They.
Born in Sweden and known for stretching musical boundaries (his first album was more worshipful, The White Room was something from a cinematic score, while his latest is reminiscent of something to be played on a dance floor), Jonathan’s ingeniousness has made March 2015 one of the most enjoyable months of the year in terms of music releasing so far (Kevin Max, NF, Jonathan Thulin, Third Day, Hawk Nelson…what more can you ask for in terms of awesome albums?). From the poignant and powerful “6 Feet Under” to the collaborative “Mockingbird” and the heartfelt title track; this is an album you cannot miss if you are a fan of all things Jonathan Thulin, and want something different and unique that’ll standout amongst both the CCM and mainstream circles in months and years to come.
Since hearing the song “6 Feet Under” in a living room concert way back at the beginning of 2014, I was very eager to hear what the final production would be. A song that speaks about how was can travel through life, yet feel like we are figuratively trapped “six feet under” through all the moments of uncertainty, doubt, worry, stress, hopelessness and a feeling of guilt; we are encouraged to be real as Jonathan shows us all what weight a song can carry if it is sung without the veil and sheen that everything is ok. Sometimes radio marketability makes songs and albums seem more fake than what the artist initially intends, nevertheless there is merit in both radio CCM and songs, like “6 Feet Under”, that may never see radio airplay. Reminding us that with God, we are alive and that ‘…only You can turn my ember to a flame…only You can make the darkness go away…’, this electronically driven melody is a highlight of Science Fiction and a highlight amongst my favourite songs of 2015 as well.
With just a piano that covers the instrumental section of “The Ruins”, Jonathan’s duet with Moriah is perhaps one of the most honest, vulnerable and enjoyable duets I’ve ever heard since Moriah’s own duet with Jason Castro on his song “Same Kind of Broken”. Co-written with good friend Charmaine, the song depicts the scenarios of the man building his house on the sand as well as the prodigal son, each reminding us that even when our lives are ruined, God still stands with us and takes an interest in rebuilding and making our lives even better than before.
It is in the beautiful moments with less instruments that lyrics can be hauntingly and refreshingly highlighted, as Jonathan further highlights his calibre as a songwriter and artist, from “The Theory”, a radio friendly album-ender about love, life and what we believe fundamentally as humans, to “Cry Wolf”, a song directed to all the liars and schemers, and a reminder to us all to always be honest, otherwise those around us won’t trust us once we do tell the truth. Electronic keyboard noises sound through “Science Fiction”, a pop melody about love in its purest form (and can be read as either the love between Jonathan and God, or between him and his wife); while “Time Traveller” gives us a unique perspective of the gospel in science speak- across the electronic beats and vocal distortion, Jonathan declares that ‘…just when I think I’m gone, You come and clean the slate again and wipe the past just like I’m a time traveller…’
Collaborative efforts have always been of a unique interest to me- and with a number of powerful and poignant tracks from artists previously (“No Turning Back”- Brandon Heath and All Sons and Daughters, “Brother”- needtobreathe and Gavin DeGraw to name a couple); I was curious to see how all of Jonathan’s 6 collaborations sounded like. With “The Ruins” already making a powerful impact (and the first out of the collaborations that I heard); I eagerly listened to the rest. Lead single “Compass” featuring Manwell of Group 1 Crew reminds me a lot of something Jonathan would do if he were still in Press Play, as Manwell brings out the poignancy and power in a rap section (as someone like Lecrae would do in Hillsong Y&F’s “This is Living”) that brings “Compass” to a whole new level, while “Jekyll and Hyde” shows us a heavy bassline as the topic of opposites, hypocrisy, and the fact that we do things we don’t want to, all come to light as Rapture Ruckus highlights this song in the heartfelt nature of how ‘…all I ever wanted to be was me, now I know not who I am, one day I’m Lex Luthor, the next I think I’m Superman…’.
“Hat Trick” uses some unique Egyptian music to bring in listeners as the issue of pretending to be someone we’re not is again highlighted, with Derek Minor doing what Manwell and Rapture Ruckus did in tracks previously- highlighting the fact that pop, worship and rap can collide and collide successfully. While musically “Hat Trick” wasn’t necessarily my favourite track, the theme is very important to listen to if you find it difficult to unveil the deepest things in your life (i.e.- everyone). Rounding out the collaborations with “Fountain”, a duet with Royal Tailor front-man Tauren Wells about the urge we as humans all have for something spiritual and how we ‘…only wanna live, wanna feel young again, what stops the clock that ticks, the fountain [of God]…’; and “Mockingbird”, with Shine Bright Baby vocalist Emily Irene Fertig and singer-songwriter veteran Kevin Max (possibly the highest profile collaboration on the album and the most interesting in terms of theme- how we don’t want to be a mockingbird in how they can only imitate yet not create themselves); Jonathan has established himself in the music industry as someone who always brings flair, uniqueness, poignancy and a new sense of creativity.
‘…it was very interesting to view our pursuit of God in space terminology. It also made being lost seem a lot scarier and bigger than it usually would. Admitting we are lost is hard to do, but it’s good to know that we have constant, Jesus, whose love always points us home if we let it. I hope listeners will have fun listening to this and not be afraid to dance if they want to. It’s humbling to admit that you need help, so hopefully people will take steps to find their way out of the wilderness they may find themselves in….’ Science Fiction is by far my favourite album from Jonathan, and one to catch if you are fan of pop, worship, EDM, and any other genre, or anyone who longs to hear something new and different compared to whatever is on the radio currently. With a whole lot of collaborations, it’s hard not to pick a song and start- with guys like Derek Minor, Kevin Max, Tauren Wells, Moriah Peters and Manwell Reyes attached to this project, Science Fiction ought to have its appeal across a variety of music genres. From the catchy title track to the vulnerable “6 Feet Under”, Jonathan can only travel from strength to strength. If this is what album #3 is like, I can’t wait for the sequel to Science Fiction!
3 songs to listen to: 6 Feet Under, The Ruins, Science Fiction
RIYL: David Thulin, Charmaine, Press Play, Group 1 Crew, Kevin Max