A well-crafted debut
With guitar skills and an ear for deep, complex songwriting, it can be hard to remember that Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan is fresh out of high school. Her music floats between crunchy guitar-rock and a beautifully crafted style of singer-songwriter confessionals, at times all within one song; a dexterity that, unfortunately, seems to be lacking in most indie rock these days. Jordan first picked up a guitar at age five and has been playing ever since. Her big “break” (if one can call it that) came at the age of 15 when she booked a slot in a DIY fest in her local Baltimore. Propelled by the success of this performance and a subsequent DIY tour, Jordan released an EP, Habit, just before her 17th birthday and was soon attracting media attention around the US with her band, Snail Mail.
Snail Mail’s debut full-length, Lush, came out earlier this month, and it immediately represents a sharp moment of growth for the young musician in Jordan. There are moments on this record where her voice sounds a lot like fellow queer singer-songwriter Julien Baker, but there are some stark unique qualities to the fragility of Jordan’s voice and the style in which she delivers some purely gut-wrenching lines (“You’re always coming back a little older/But it looks alright on you,” from “Let’s Find An Out” comes to mind). Lush presents itself as a “summer album,” with lyrics that describe heat waves and June—yet, there’s a brisk frostiness to the sentiment (perhaps due to her ice hockey days) with which Jordan sings, and a wintry complexion to some of the more slow-moving songs.
All of the tracks on this album are distinctly personal and emotive to their fullest extent. Each song’s storyline is both vague and direct, so the listener can truly feel the music as it washes over them. From album opener, “Intro,” to album closer, “Anytime,” there’s a certain clever cohesiveness, a perfect loop that I can’t recall occurring in many other records, save for King Gizzard’s Nonagon Infinity, which is a very different record. In fact, both tracks are built upon each other and feature some of the same lyrics.
The closing moments of “Intro” feed directly into “Pristine,” the album’s first single. The sonic make-up of “Pristine” is a perfect indicator of Snail Mail’s sound: tight, guitar-driven rock built around an equally firm rhythm section. The track’s bridge deconstructs the chord progression but adds some personal punctuation. “If it’s not supposed to be/ Then I’ll just let it be,” sings Jordan over a fresh time signature, and, to some extent, a fresh perspective. Her guitar-playing skills are demonstrated fully on “Speaking Terms,” a slaloming track that describes the end of one of those relationships that never actually feels finished with. Leaving things on “speaking terms” is an easy way out, but can limit the real topics either party wants to address.
“Heat Wave,” the album’s second single, sees Jordan’s lyrics at their most fragile—waking up after nights “so far gone” with the thought of a lover on her mind. Musically speaking, the guitar parts on this track are biting and crisp: it’s clear that for Jordan—as is the case with many great guitarists—the guitar is an extension of her given voice, a tool for speaking without words. This is even true on some of the slow-burning tracks, such as “Let’s Find An Out” and “Deep Sea,” in which Jordan constructs a complex musical soundscape with just a guitar.
For a debut album, Lush is as its title suggests: growing exponentially fast, and rich with interesting textures. And for a debut album from someone as timelessly wise as Lindsey Jordan, this album is a good sign of what’s to come.