Album Review: Thelma – Thelma

By Eli Shively, General Manager
[Tiny Engines; 2017]
Rating: 8.5/10

Key Tracks: “If You Let It,” “Peach”

Thelma’s self-titled debut is a striking combination of depth and polish. At seven tracks and 30 minutes long, it feels equal parts carefully curated and ambitious, a highly personal journey that focuses just as much on engrossing the listener as it does on making sure they don’t get lost along the way.

The latter is achieved through an almost instinctual sense of pacing. Singer/songwriter Natasha Jacobs’ training in composition at SUNY Purchase certainly shows in her approach to creating ever-evolving soundscapes, which hark back to late 2000s indie rock classics like Veckatimest and Bitte Orca with their unique sonic attributes and unconventional structural approach.

Jacobs, assisted by a full band that joined her after a few years writing songs solo, carefully expands upon a base of voice and guitar with a variety of instrumental textures to ensure that there’s never a dull or unnecessary moment throughout the entire record. Every second feels absolutely crucial — listeners will surely be surprised at how well such a delicate and nuance-oriented band can hold their attention.

The most essential ingredient in Thelma’s unique and powerful formula, though, is Jacobs’ vocals. She reaches both extremes of her range with ease — going from a delicate low end to a commanding and expressive falsetto in mere seconds on “Peach,” and lifting the track as a whole to towering heights with her meditative vocals on “If You Let It,” a song for which she wrote the vocal melody before anything else. “I plague the back of your tongue with instinctual grief,” she sings on the former, a not-so-subtle nod to something darker lurking beneath the intoxicatingly sweet surface. The dichotomy couldn’t be better stated.

Thelma defies every expectation and potential pitfall that could potentially arise from its most prominent characteristics: It’s a slow record that never feels boring or tiresome and a personal record that doesn’t alienate its audience. In fact, the opposite is true in both cases — Thelma is a spellbinding work of tangible vulnerability that only feels deeper and more well-rounded with multiple listens. In a world chock full of half-hearted, halfway-honest indie music, it asserts itself like no album of its kind has done all year.

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