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Snail Mail’s LP Lush is a powerful and promising debut

2018 was a busy year for female-led indie groups. Between Soccer Mommy, Charly Bliss, Men I Trust and many others, indie bands fronted by women came from the woodwork like never before in 2018. One of these groups stood out from the rest using a surprisingly simple formula: clean guitar chords and the powerful voice of Lindsey Jordan accelerated the Maryland-based Snail Mail to the forefront of this movement.

The 19-year-old Jordan– the voice behind Snail Mail, which is often referred to as her “solo project”– steadily gained a following after the release of her debut EP Stick (2015). Another EP, Habit (2016), added to that following before Jordan’s first full-length release, Lush (2018), solidified Snail Mail’s place as a pioneer of modern indie rock.  

In Lush, Jordan gripes with seemingly generic issues, given her age: teenage angst, heartbreak and the confusion of wondering what went so wrong in a relationship. But instead of letting these tropes define her and her music, Jordan uses them to craft one of the most genuine, heartfelt records in recent memory.

Lush is distinguished by its sneaky guitar riffs entwined behind Jordan’s bold lyricism. This is prominent in lead single “Pristine,” where Jordan proclaims to an unrequited love that “I know myself and I’ll never love anyone else.” This sentiment is seen throughout the entire album; Jordan drops the sweeping hook of “Heat Wave” behind crunchy guitar licks: “I hope whoever it is / Holds their breath around you / cuz I know I did.”

Despite the sorrow conveyed in Jordan’s words, the ferocity with which she delivers her lyrics would imply she feels otherwise. The emphasis and emotion Jordan flaunts evoke Paramore’s Hayley Williams and have also drawn comparisons to Liz Phair. Jordan’s choice of indie-rock chords is reminiscent of staples of the genre, such as the Smashing Pumpkins, while the obscure guitar tunings she selects occasionally produce a Goo Goo Dolls-type sound.

Although Snail Mail is often referred to as Jordan’s “solo project,” she does have a band that accompanies her regularly. Daniel Butko provides rhythm guitar work that layers beautifully with that of Jordan’s. Alex Bass (fittingly) mans bass guitar while drummer Ray Brown rounds out the foursome.

But Jordan clearly takes center stage here. Her blunt lyricism continues in the slow jam “Stick,” where she mockingly interrogates an ex-lover: “And did things work out for you? Or are you still not sure what that means?” Jordan’s unabashed sincerity deserves praise; she knows what she wants and is not afraid to ask for it. This is also seen in the breakdown of “Heat Wave,” where Jordan states that she’s “not into sometimes.”

The latter tracks of Lush see Jordan accept her fate and attempt to move on. This is prominent in “Full Control,” in which she claims that she’s “not lost / Even when it’s love / Even when it’s not.” In unison with Jordan’s change in mood, “Full Control” and “Golden Dream” feature some of the most upbeat and catchy indie-rock chords the album has to offer.

Lush’s weaknesses are few and far between; the mostly acoustic-driven “Let’s Find an Out” devolves into the gray space of indie folk, an area the rest of the album successfully avoids. Meanwhile, the album concludes on something of an anticlimactic note with “Anytime,” which ends up feeling bland and emotionless compared to fellow slow jams “Stick” and “Deep Sea.” These blips on the radar, however, are easily overshadowed by the strength of the rest of Lush’s lineup.

Topics such as teenage ennui and heartbreak often lead to some of the whinier productions in music. However, Snail Mail does just the opposite of that; despite the sorrow in Jordan’s lyricism, her delivery of that sorrow lets the listener know that she remains hopeful for her future. In the same way, Lush is a work of art that gives hope to the future of indie rock, a future to which Jordan will no doubt be a major contributor.

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