Envision for a moment, if you wrote and recorded some music in your teen years. What would that sound like? Are you cringing? Because I am. That’s just one reason why the work that Lindsey Jordan makes as Snail Mail is so very special. Her 2016 EP Habit won over critics and fans alike with its subdued power and studied melancholy, revealing well beyond her 16 years. Since then, Jordan has graduated high school, toured with the likes of Waxahatchee and Girlpool, and was featured in a roundtable of female rock musicians for the New York Times.
Now comes Lush, Jordan’s debut LP—a collection of 10 lucid guitar-pop songs that show off her her classically-trained guitar skills, structural know-how, plus an ability to express the inquisitiveness and confident insecurity of youth with a surprising sophistication. “They don’t love you, do they?” she asks during the magic-hour-esque “Intro,” her clear and comfortingly relatable voice singing the first of many questions she poses throughout the album.
On “Pristine,” she seems to be speaking to someone else. “Don’t you like me for me?,” she asks, eliciting the pangs of your high school crush over low-burning, muted guitars with a ‘90s lean. “Stick” is filled with questions that could be for herself as much as they’re for someone else. “And did things work out for you? / Are you still not sure what that means?,” she sings—an arresting inquiry matched only by the skillful build of the music behind it. It swells and recedes beautifully in a way that when she finally lets the wave crash, the force nearly knocks you over.
Jordan’s music is laid-back, gently hooky, and complements the poetic vagueness of her lyrics. There isn’t enough detail for you to know exactly what she’s talking about, but you understand the mood. “Deep Sea” utilizes a song-length diving metaphor, with Jordan artfully using references to the bends, tides, and the blues and greens of the ocean as stand ins for loneliness, uncertainty, and a person’s responsibility for themselves—the french horn and Jordan’s soft strums driving the point home. “Full Control” hits you in the gut, her inner-conflict expressed in lyrics like “Shouldn’t be here when you get back / Just to stand in line / Wait for you and then waste my time,” as well as the gutsy chorus that features some of Jordan’s heartiest singing.
Though the highs and lows of the album are subtle, Lush confirms what the Habit EP first introduced. Jordan is a definite talent. The songs illustrate a wise-beyond-years songwriting style, with none of the self-importance and indulgence that can come with more experience. Nothing feels trite or contrived. She’s a natural, with an impressive sense of restraint, placing points of tension and release right where they need to be.