Thelma, the project of Brooklyn-based musician Natasha Jacobs, will draw comparisons to Mitski, Amber Coffman, St. Vincent, and, of course, Bjork. As a comparison it is positive, but it also forces her into a box of avant-garde female vocalists too easily defined by one another. Of course these are intended to be kind words, but those words, without intention, remove the unique quality that rests in her work.
Like her previously mentioned peers, Jacobs is aware of being, and wanting to be, a female figure in the indie-pop world. Like them, ‘she’s toying with projection and obfuscation.’ “I love how you play with illusion” she lilts in lolita falsetto on ‘Take Me to Orlando’’s first line. It’s dramatic, sexy, and carries a theatrical nature that disillusions the listener. What follows is an almost synthetic jazz that feels like it’s backed by a distant New Orleans horn band with a gooey synthesizer adding an almost gummy cohesion to the track. It’s outer-worldly, or at the least like a good absinthe night.
Thelma has released one album, last year’s eponymous debut. Then Jacobs received a double diagnosis of thyroid cancer and a genetic joint disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, conditions that affected her vocals and her ability to play guitar. The diagnosis encouraged her to write synthesizer-heavy songs, which have turned into her forthcoming album The Only Thing.
We’re all made up of pretty similar shit, but it’s hard to not equate some of our thought process to personal experiences. ‘Take Me to Orlando’ is musically driven by a synthesizer, lyrically it’s driven by the Virginia Woolf novel Orlando, which Jacobs read while recovering from surgery.
Speaking of the novel, Jacobs said, “One quote that stuck out was ‘Illusions are to the soul what atmosphere is to the earth. Roll up that tender air and the plant dies, the colour fades. The earth we walk on is a parched cinder. It is marl we tread and fiery cobbles scorch our feet. By the truth we are undone. Life is a dream. ‘Tis waking that kills us.’ Although this quote makes a somewhat dangerous statement out of context, I do feel that the illusions we seek hold many important truths about who we are as people. With all this on the mind, while feeling very stuck and lonely during my recovery, I wrote a song about and for an imagined lover whom I named Orlando.”
‘Take Me to Orlando’ seems to be on a stage. It’s made up, it’s fictional, and, therefore it couldn’t be more real. The knowledge of its fiction only serves to make it more tactile, more of a discussion of the truth than those stories composed of actual events because it comes from a mind composing the desire for natural events. On ‘Take Me to Orlando’ it is the illusion that is real.