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Albums Of The Week: Jonah Tolchin | Lava Lamp

The rootsy singer-songwriter loosens up on his gritty, freewheeling fourth album.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “I wanted to let go and cut loose with this album,” says Jonah Tolchin of Lava Lamp, his fourth studio album, “I wanted to explore new terrain without any kind of rules or restrictions.” It’s that joyous sense of freedom and endless possibility that defines the bold and adventurous new collection. Built around a series of loose, live-in-the-studio performances, the record is more sonically diverse than anything in Tolchin’s catalog, expanding on the folk-blues style he’s become known for to incorporate elements of indie-rock and grunge fueled by gritty electric guitars and a muscular rhythm section.

“I was a pretty rebellious kid,” says Tolchin, “and I mostly listened to alternative rock and hip-hop and punk growing up. Somewhere along the way, though, I feel like I lost that part of myself. These songs are my way of reclaiming it.”

The songs here are still raw and emotional, reckoning with alienation and escapism in a modern world defined by 24/7 stimulation, but there’s a buoyancy to them that belies their intensity, a mischievous playfulness that Tolchin credits in part to his new role as a stepfather. In that sense, Lava Lamp can be heard as the sound of Tolchin reconnecting with his own childhood, casting off the burdens of expectation and returning to a musical sandbox in which the only limits are the bounds of his imagination.

Born and raised in central New Jersey, acclaimed singer/songwriter/bluesman Jonah Tolchin began his career as a DIY artist, hitting the road as a teenager and self-releasing his own music until signing with Yep Roc Records for his critically acclaimed 2014 album Clover Lane, recorded in Nashville with a slew of special guests including Los LobosSteve Berlin and Deer Tick’s John McCauley.

In 2016, Tolchin followed with Thousand Mile Night, which racked up more than 10 million streams with its title track alone, and 2019’s Fires for the Cold, a bittersweet meditation on loss and redemption that featured appearances by Jackson Browne, Rickie Lee Jones and Sara Watkins. Along the way, Tolchin has toured the U.S. and Europe extensively, sharing bills with Mandolin Orange, Chuck Prophet, Gregg Allman, Chris Smither, Dave and Phil Alvin, Joseph Arthur and Tony Joe White.”