The Baltimore band may not bring anything new to the table, but it is one of the most refreshing and lovable debuts of 2018.
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“Go.” Not one second has passed on Lindsey Jordan‘s debut album before she gets a word out. For a project called Snail Mail, she sure is determined to come speeding through the blocks. And it has been that way throughout her short yet impressive career. Jordan has barely turned nineteen and already has an EP and a full-length record out, the latter of which has been released through Matador Records.
It is Jordan’s muffled vocal that settles us down. “Go“, she continues, “get it all. Let ’em watch, let it follow.” She is optimistic in her advice: while her vocal is unclear and restrained, the words are an assertive introduction to the album, only six seconds in.
Less than ten seconds later, the tone changes. “They don’t love you, do they?” Her mood-flipping is omnipresent on ‘Lush’, the debut album from Snail Mail – the solo project by Lindsey Jordan, a Baltimore-born teenager. All of the ten songs were written as Jordan was aged between fifteen and eighteen, so it comes to no surprise that no other album in 2018 has half the emotional complexity of ‘Lush’.
The foundation of ‘Lush’ is the weight of life. Whether it is the authoritative statement of “I’m not yours,” on ‘Golden Dream’ or the desperate opening plea on ‘Speaking Terms’: “Oh, don’t say it now, Wait, don’t just give up” – Jordan is the same teenager that you and I once were. It is her ability to construe the boiling thespian lifestyle into song that gives Jordan’s debut so much power and carry.
‘Deep Sea’ is vast with tender reflection on a fragile love; the vocal delivery of Lindsey Jordan is idiosyncratic to the extent that the song is spacious and layered upon a slow-tempo ballad, it is a heavenly pairing. Her delivery is a constant on an album that gradually morphs. The manner in which she elongates vowels (“Die my love” could possess a good eight syllables) is unique and yet homely. Unpolished and brash, Jordan’s voice is the emotional anchor for a boat struggling to stay still.
On numerous occasions, Snail Mail‘s masterful songwriting is flaunted. ‘Pristine’ is closer to a perfect indie rock song than any other this year. Dynamic and desperate, it is near-operatic with its segmented build and range of tempo. There is so much chaos, so many disorganised thoughts that even when the final third is more layered, it feels more alone. As Jordan sings: “I’ll still love you the same” in conclusion, the song ends abruptly. Just like that it is over.
Throughout ‘Lush’ the breaking point is pushed further so that you are eventually numb. On ‘Stick’ you crave the emotional peak. It is a revitalised, yet equally crushing, rendition of the song that also appears on the ‘Habit’ EP. Just when you anticipate Jordan to unleash her restraint, she coils like a turtle hiding in its shell. Her vocals are rough while the drums ring prominently. The build occurs in waves; at the two-minute mark, you expect the climax to come. Two minutes of turmoil later, Lindsey Jordan snaps. “Would they stick around?“, she asks repeatedly. A silence lingers after the dramatic conclusion. It is as if she has to take a step back and rest. We all do after the preceding five minutes.
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One factor Snail Mail nails down is the ability to write damn good lyrics. Time and time again, you can find yourself in the crowd at a festival shouting lyrics back at Jordan. On the aforementioned ‘Stick’, the hook of: “And did things work out for you? Or are you still not sure what that means?” encapsulates young love and the uncertainty of future endeavours. ‘Golden Dream’ finds Snail Mail pondering over a love on its last legs: “Times that I could buy your love, though I don’t think that I’d have enough“. She wraps the song up exclaiming, “Stupid me.” The kids can relate.
Whether it is the shaggy guitar effects or the structured reflection of teenage emotion, Snail Mail embodies a new generation where vulnerability and honesty is detrimental. “Go,” Lindsey Jordan sings again, this time for the final time. ‘Anytime’ is the album closer, and the full picture that the intro turned its head towards. This time, the vocal is clear. The guitar is crisp. The background feels warmer. The songs before are not just a revelation, but a much-needed confession. By telling us how she feels, Jordan’s mind is clearer, and so is the finale. While she admits, “I’m not in love with your absence…”, Jordan retires her protests: “…I’ve gotten to know the quiet and still forgive you anytime.” Snail Mail may sound like a flurry of familiar bands, but in her lyricism and minute attention to detail, ‘Lush’ is a cathartic, and melancholic, breakthrough.