Growing up with the name “Jonathan,” I always felt a bit of a spring in my step when I thought of its biblical origin and meaning: gift of God. So when I heard there’s a popular, powerhouse band of pals from Croatia named Jonathan, I immediately expect something a cut above the usual indie rock fray, something transporting, even transcendent. Thrilled to say they deliver beyond all these (perhaps unreasonable and biased) expectations on their latest album To Hold.
Led by the gripping, David Bowie-esque vocals of frontman Zoran Badurina, Jonathan conveys their cautious optimism through a veil of angst created by hypnotic riffs, edgy guitar explosions, and occasional offbeat punkiness – the latter a natural outgrowth of each of the members’ backgrounds in alternative and punk rock. It’s almost like they got together out of a crying need to bite harder yet create a path forward and higher, and realized they could only do this if they pooled their talents and visions.
They define the concept a little differently than ancient Israel, yet it somehow fits. To them, it’s a reflection of unity, with “Jonathan” being a metaphorical single person with a blend of character traits and whimsies from each. Those whimsies jangle and simmer along on the opening track “Way To Go” before exploding into a throbbing hard rock passion play and easing back down and back up again. It’s a major splash of musical dynamics right off the bat. The dual guitar wall of sound approach from guitarists Darko Petkovic and Tomislav Radnovic reaches a whopping full expression on “Seasons,” which finds Jonathan “trying to make sense of it all.”
The band isn’t all fire and blisters, though. “I Don’t Mind,” a dreamy duet with female vocalist Lovely Quinces, is an ethereal, atmospheric delight, building slowly to an intense emotional payoff, while “Gone” is a sparse, haunting ballad that allows Badurina to command the narrative and pierce the heart without much production interference. Needless to say, these Croatians do my name proud!