Snail Mail first came on the alternative radar in 2016 with her debut Habit-EP, which hasn’t waned in relevance since. The solo project headed by female instrumentalist and vocalist Lindsey Jordan was only 17 when the EP was released, proving that impactful music doesn’t always come with age. Since then she’s been on joint tours, been featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Series, played some major festivals including Coachella this past go-round and appeared in various magazines most recently being DIY. For only being a prominent musician for less than three years, Jordan has made a deep impression on the indie scene. Habit-EP clocking in at less than 30mn makes a massive statement on the artistry of Jordan, songs such as “Thinning”, “Static Buzz”, and “Slug” are all guitar focused tracks, each paired with simplistic yet intriguing vocals giving a close-up of Jordan’s head-space. These tracks focus on ideas surrounding depression, inner reflection, and feeling as if you’re an outsider in your own life. The juxtaposition between the guitar work and Jordan’s lyrics helps paint the picture of who she is both as an artist and as a person. “Dirt” and “Stick” both serve as the emotional mainstay on the EP, feeding a more introverted tone on the overall upbeat sounding release, despite what the lyrics say. Overall Habit-EP makes for a dynamic preliminary release for what’s to come on her first full-length release, Lush.
Snail Mail begins Lush with the intro track properly titled “Intro”, a dreamy track that throws the listener into a mindless wandering as the simple guitar sways in a fashion very similar to the vocals, leading to an ambient close before making the transition into the main album. Next comes a previously released single, “Pristine”, bringing a lighter tone after the occult intro focusing on drums and guitar picking, although not abrasive, the instrumental carries a sense of hurried thinking with it, as though the message is fleeting. This ephemeral instrumental presentation pairs perfectly with the lyrics which describes the process of growing apart and feeling that one has begun to lackluster, and this distance is all her own fault. From “Pristine”, we are brought to “Speaking Terms”, a continuation in mood is easily detectable from the opening riff, as “Pristine” tackles the emotions involved in growing apart, “Speaking Terms” seems to fill the void of acquaintance and being critical of one’s motives. This track is slightly more vague in tone however as the voice seems hollow, revealing Jordan’s lack of clarity surrounding the central idea, denying something that seems so sweet. Snail Mail’s instrumentals seem to follow the lyrical progression, as they begin very defined but soon sway into a disoriented state, it makes this flux once more between certainty and daze before changing tones altogether. This time in a headstrong manner carrying to a soft close at the end of the track. “Speaking Terms” seems to stick out as one of the most sincere songs on the album as a whole, following a very naturalistic progression of mental state, displaying Jordan’s ability to capture this raw human emotion with poise. The next track on Lush is “Heat Wave” the second of three previously released singles. “Heat Wave” begins with Jordan examining herself, feeling out the process of moving past a relationship left with the door open, feeling a void un-fillable in Jordan’s current state of affairs. This self-reflection very soon turns to the subject of the pain, as she questions:
Passing phases wear you thin
Same old world that you’ve been sleeping in
And I hope it never spends you up
Green eyes, what could ever be enough?
Snail Mail seems to battle her inner emotions on this track as she wants so badly to let others in but instead feels the need to berate her subject, turning the pain on them. The instrumentals carry a blistering tone, with harsh guitar riffs thrown in with angering vocals, “Heat Wave” seems to be the raw summit on the album. The bitterness of “Heat Wave” is then matched by “Stick”, a song previously released on Habit-EP, which seems to be reaching for a specific moment, a sort of climax, only to be found at the end of the song. The track seems to be straining for more than it is possible of attaining, however this seems to work to Jordan’s advantage, creating an honest tone, almost shameful in doubt. “Stick” points to the loss in faith of people once trusted, it dives low at points, with short, but intricate riffs and soars at the end in a rush, as if Jordan is physically hunting for answers. “Let’s Find An Out” the last of the previously released singles captures a completely different attitude. The song, folksy-sounding, hookless, and enigmatic; lacks centrality completely, however not with a loss of style. It reminds me of something Neil Young would have released somewhere between On the Beach and Tonight’s the Night. It’s soothing yet lacks warmth, unknown to me to be the intended effect. Nonetheless, “Let’s Find An Out” is necessary to Lush as it adds to the solitary sentiment found throughout the work as a whole. Then comes “Golden Dream”, another track that examines the need to deny something that seems so adequate, however “Golden Dream” focuses on how she can grasp this need only when in authority of her mind, seemingly malleable to outside forces. Keeping an upbeat pace, this tracks follows in the general momentum of Lush. “Full Control” as the title suggests, displays an almost manipulative resonance with a monotonous voice. The guitar follows in hot pursuit as the tantrum-like outbursts surge in multiple points throughout the song, ending in a fashion similar to falling apart, ironically. “Deep Sea” serves as an important marker denoting the end of the album as it is a heavier track, making a turn that will finish the album on a quieter note as closed by the track “Anytime”. “Anytime” is a hearty count of the feeling that someone has moved on, but they still hold a place in your heart despite their ability to let go. Closing the album similar to how it begins, wondering if everything that surrounds us is fleeting, including relationships still cherished.
Lush, sees a different Snail Mail than on Habit-EP, as Jordan seems to have lost her sense of security, instead, she focuses on more abstract emotions with less pity and self-deprecation then the ideas presented on the EP. Jordan continues to possess the rare quality of taking these reflective ideas and staging them with exuberance, both instrumentally and vocally. Lush offers a Jordan willing to experiment in style, spanning between genres finding its lengths at folk and noise-driven grunge. Snail Mail’s unique style and the ability to capture these relatable emotions in a manner that is both engaging yet polarizing shows exactly why Snail Mail holds such an important place in the current alternative scene.
Review by Brady Schroeder