PLAYLIST: Thelma Shares Music for Pain, Rather Than About Pain

The Brooklyn songwriter compiles ten healing songs that helped her make the leap from guitar to synthesizer for her latest record.

In the time since releasing her Tiny Engines–released debut record as Thelma, singer-songwriter and guitarist Natasha Jacobs not only received a voice-affecting diagnosis of thyroid cancer, but also learned that she was suffering from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare joint disorder which made it difficult to play guitar. Just two years later, Jacobs is back on her feet with her follow-up, The Only Thing, which sees the musician swapping her guitar-rock style for a focus on synth-driven freak folk, experimenting with vocals in a way that’s more playfully gobbinjr than acrobatically Torres.

In addition to being surprisingly lighthearted considering the events that led up to it, The Only Thing is an album that embraces change rather than fearing it—the record’s minimalism sets her vocal theatrics and synth compositions at the forefront, which are often supported by strings and prominent live and programmed percussion (though “Warm Guts” still wraps itself in familiar guitar tones). Instead of an opportunity for wallowing, the record is an act of healing for Thelma.

In the spirit of therapy, Jacobs reached out to us to share a few of her favorite healing tracks that inspired the songs on her new record. “I wanted to make a playlist for pain, rather than about pain,” she says. “The topic of dancing is something I touch on a lot in my new record. Like guitar, dancing is something I love to do, but have physically struggled with the last few years.” The dance influence certainly comes across in her taste, whether it’s the new-wavey pop of Ava Luna, the intense industrial sounds of Eartheater, or the, uh, “turkey calls” of Russian sensation Vitas—all of which oddly play into Thelma’s sound in nearly equal parts.

“Last year I started listening to less guitar–based music and got really into dance music, and more recently into DJing. Here’s a dance playlist that would cheer me up if I was having a rough pain day. Excited to say I’ve recently been dancing a lot more than I was able to for a long while!”

The Only Thing is set to be self-released February 22.

Ravyn Lenae feat. Appleby, “Free Room”

When you’re going through hard life stuff, it can feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself, and in turn it can be hard to feel connected to people you felt close to when life felt simpler. This “you don’t know me anymore” anthem is a good song for those feels.

Bergsonist, “Affiliation”

I got into Bergsonist because she DJs a lot around Brooklyn. She’s a great DJ, produces really wonderful music, and she just released this song! I played it the other night at my first DJ gig.

Lily and Horn Horse, “Today”

I’m a big fan of every project Lily Konigsberg is in, but Lily and Horn Horse is probably my favorite. Her lyrics are so simple, but somehow both meaningful and cheeky. They make me smile and apparently smiling reduces pain.

SOPHIE, “Faceshopping”

This song evokes all kinds of ridiculous dance moves and facial expressions.

Tzusing, “4 Floors of Whores”

Sometimes when you’re feeling a bit dark you need to groove to something darker.

Eartheater feat. Moor Mother, “MMXXX”

I love this collaboration between two artists I really admire. Eartheater’s record IRISIRI is otherworldly. Over the summer I was taking long walks every day to stay strong and keep my pain to a minimum, and there was a week when I just listened to this record on repeat.

Suzi Analogue, “#000000 Nn da Club”

Recently I started going to the club a lot. Here’s an upbeat song about being “nn da club.”

Ava Luna, “Centerline”

Moon 2 was one of my favorite records of 2018. I love Jennifer Vanilla’s (a.k.a. Becca Kauffman) presence in this song.

Vitas, “7th Element”

I was somehow late to discovering Vitas but recently became a bit obsessed. There’s nothing like bizarre pop music to lighten my mood. Hoping to sing like Vitas soon.

rkss, “Bicycle”

I figured I’d include one artist I just discovered. I found rkss’ music last week and was enamored with the sound.

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