by Kat Harding (@iwearaviators)
Natasha Jacobs, d.b.a. Thelma, is set to release her debut project on Charlotte, NC label Tiny Engines. With help from Maciej Lewandowski, Juan Pablo Siles, and Daniel Siles, their album is an unexpected combination of discord and noise grating against Jacobs’ light and airy voice, a stark reminder that beauty can be found when everything seems like it is crashing down. Written while Jacobs was a student at SUNY Purchase, the songs and lyrics were a way for her to overcome her fear of performing. She’s put forth an album that, against the backdrop of the US political climate, is necessary and powerful. We demand more, we’re taking up space, and we’re not backing down, overcoming fears that used to prevent us from speaking out. And with a soundtrack like this, all the better.
Just seven songs, the album opens with a single guitar and Jacobs’ sweet vocals, alternating between soft coos and chanting the title, “if you let it,” although we never quite figure out what will happen if we let it, we just know it’ll be better than it is now. The sentences fade away breathlessly as the music swells, the chords filling your chest like a surge of emotion over the refrain “you deserve more, you deserve more,” and we do deserve more, much more than we’re currently getting.
“White Couches” has Jacobs demanding space in someone’s pristine life, even though she knows she is a mess and unworthy. We’re all fighting these days for what we believe in, often tooth-and-nail against friends, neighbors, and loved ones. The surging drums, her squeaking voice, and rumbling guitar come together in the battle cry “I can sit on your white couches tonight,” taking the place she deserves next to someone better off.
Otherworldly electronic sounds and vocal distortion weave through the second single released on the album, “Peach,” leading to an unsettling feeling creeping up through your arms to your heart, a sentiment often felt while reading the news. The guitar squeals and clanging drums come together as a foil to Jacobs’ fluttering voice, coming through in rounds, defying anyone trying to own her. “Though I’ve fed you love respectively sweet, I plague the back of your tongue with instinctual grief” she threatens in layer upon layer of sound; listen to this before the next protest you go to for inspiration.
The jarring pairing of the sweet vocals highlighting the cutting lyrics and mixed above noisy and often difficult instrumentals carve out a new space for female “singer-songwriters,” breaking the stereotypical mold of a demure person with a guitar. Any assumption that Jacobs’ lyrics will be as sweet and kind as her voice should be halted immediately. Her barbed, sometimes threatening words urgently and ambitiously seek a place in the universe. The album ends with the title track, an ode to a warm and familiar character of Thelma, a goodbye to our “business as usual” world. It’s apparent it isn’t safe out there anymore, and that’s something we all have to grapple with, but with Thelma on in constant rotation, it might not be as painful.