WLS - August 2020
We are pleased to present August's 2020 White Label Series selection Thelma, The Only Thing as chosen by Liz Pelly.
The Only Thing
(August 01, 2020)
- Stranger Love
- Warm Guts
- No Dancing Allowed
- Take Me To Orlando
- Never Complain
- Chosen Ones
I met many incredible musicians during my time working at the Brooklyn art space Silent Barn. One of them was Thelma, the songwriting moniker of Natasha Jean Jacobs. When I heard her 2019 sophomore album, I was immediately struck: The Only Thing is a beautiful, strange, swelling synth-pop record, with shredding string arrangements and eclectic, expressive vocals. I was struck, too, by its sharp lyrics, some of which chronicle the inherent heaviness of living in a body, of invisible and internalized pains. Yet there also seemed to be an intriguing droll humor to these songs.
The Only Thing quickly became one of my favorite albums of the year. It wasn’t until after a few months of listening on repeat that I learned more about the struggles Jacobs faced in making and releasing it—about how during the process, she faced a number of medical emergencies including being diagnosed with a rare soft tissue disease that made it hard for her to even hold a guitar anymore. As a result, she wrote the skeleton of this record with one hand on a tiny synth while in recovery from surgery. “It was the first time I was able to enjoy making music in a few years,” she wrote in 2019. “I was reunited with the feeling that making music is The Only Thing that makes me feel a very particular and necessary sense of being alive.”
Her medical condition also led to challenges finding label support for the record, due to her decreased ability to tour. She ended up self-releasing the album on cassette instead, and perhaps was better off for it. But hearing this part of The Only Thing’s story was a reminder of how the demanding touring expectations of today’s music economy can take a toll on the body and how, as Jacobs has discussed, ableist attitudes create a spectrum of barriers in all corners of the industry. I’m glad that the White Label Series can give these songs a vinyl pressing outside of those unfair and often invisibilized pressures.
- Liz Pelly
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