Album Review: Snail Mail – Lush

In the past couple of years, a host of young, female-led indie-bands have been getting the music scene in a tizz, and 2018 is proving to be the best so far. The likes of Soccer Mommy, Haley Hendrickx, Japanese Breakfast and now the sensational Snail Mail are moving in to join ranks alongside the now-established Alvvays, Jay Som, Waxahatchee and Big Thief, to name but a few. It is a delight to see and hear, and through Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan, we can basque in her candid, honest, yet emotional lyrics over jangly, shoegaze-indie guitars.

Having learnt guitar from the age of 5, Jordan has been mastering her own style for much of her young life, from playing classical to developing obscure tunings, under the watchful eye of tutor Mary Timony of Helium, to create her own unique take on indie-pop. At the age of just 16, Jordan and her high school band, put together in the Baltimore suburbs of Ellicot City, released the Habit EP. Haphazard, scrappy and gloriously gritty, it set a precedent for Snail Mail and they haven’t looked back since. From the opening track of the Habit EP – Thinning – it was clear that they were set for something special.

Now at the ripe old-age of 18, Jordan and co. are set to unveil their debut full-length record, Lush. It’s an appropriate title, as the production on this release has clearly added multiple layers of indie goodness, whilst still maintaining an element of that grit from previous, DIY works. Teaser single Pristine gets the album fully underway, following a 60ish-second intro of hazy, late-evening guitar and dreamy vocals. Pristine is a track that is set to swiftly become part of many Summer soundtracks. With a typical teenage attitude of telling it how it is, Jordan proclaims “Don’t you like me for me? / Is there any better feeling than coming clean? / I know myself and I’ll never love anyone else”. We can all recall a time when such feelings and proclamations were the at the forefront of our minds, and Jordan has a way of making this sound both nostalgic and completely in the moment at the same time.

An element of nostalgia runs throughout the sound of Lush, with guitar licks and indie influences clearly echoing the likes of Sonic Youth, The Pastels and Jordan’s hero, Liz Phair. It is the latter that becomes most evident in Jordan’s vocals too – sometimes ghostly, often assured. She’s certainly not one to pull any punches either, and through adolescent fervour states “I won’t let you take me for a ride” on the stunning and ludicrously clever Speaking Terms. Jordan wears her heart on her sleeve and lets everyone know how she feels.

Heat Wave continues in the same vein – honest, brutal and heartbreaking. Jordan states that this track was written whilst crying in the bathtub, hours after ending a relationship. The lyrics indicate this emotion perfectly, opening the track by softly proclaiming “I’m so tired of moving on”, before ending by repeatedly belting out, “I’m feeling low / I’m not into sometimes”. Moreover, in between such statements, Jordan delivers one of the finest lines of the record – “And I hope whoever it is / Holds their breath around you / Cause’ I know I did”. Simple, beautiful and tragic.

Admittedly, not every track on Lush pulls you in, and at times there are momentary relapses into the feeling of ‘haven’t I just heard this one?’. However, the record doesn’t drift off for too long, and the likes of Full Control gives the album the kick it needs when required, as Jordan declares “You better get back up”. The most jaw-dropping moment however, is saved for the penultimate track. By this point, we’re now aware that Jordan has been through at least one breakup, yet the pains experienced through teenage romance have predominantly been delivered with a blend of reflection, maturity and defiance. On Deep Sea however, it feels like a particularly intimate and vulnerable moment from Jordan. The use of French horns and ghostly harmonies add further emotion to the track, before she cries “Die, my love”. It is a truly stunning piece, and is a testament to the production from Jake Aron.

Lush is essentially a beautiful and deeply-honest debut from Snail Mail. It’s not perfect, but it does a great job in capturing both the heartbreak and strength experienced through adolescent romance and a coming of age. Lindsey Jordan has a knack for portraying her emotions with a maturity that many would be unable to do, accompanied by some astounding guitar skills and well-woven production. It’ll be interesting to see where Snail Mail go from here, but we’ll be keeping a keen eye on this bunch.