Snail Mail - Lush
At 18 years of age, Lindsey Jordan is an unmitigated success. Throughout the past three years, the emboldened newly crowned darling of the indie music scene has been busy blazing a trail of hard-won triumph, amassing an impressive list of enviable accomplishments along the way. Within ten years of first picking up a guitar, having begun her classical guitar training at the tender age of 5, Jordan not only began composing her own songs, she actively put herself out there in the local Baltimore music scene playing live dates. By the age of 15 she had already commercially released her first tracks, the four-song Sticki EP, having banded together with bassist Ryan Vieira and drummer Shawn Durham to form the nucleus of the trio that would become known as Snail Mail.
The following year in the summer of 2016 Jordan, 16 at the time, hit the road for her first ever tour dates culminating in the release of her second and most important release to date; the six-track Habit EP on local Baltimore punk rock label Sister Polygon Records. Within six months, the new EP caught the attention of the editorial staff at Pitchfork magazine, who went on to publish two glowing articles on the rising young indie star over a period of four months. Before the year was out, Pitchfork helped seal the deal by adding the Habit EP opening track “Thinning” to their coveted list of the online magazine’s Best New Tracks series. By this time Jordan, now 17, was hard at it touring North America, opening for the likes of Girlpool, Waxahatchee, Japanese Breakfast, Ought, and Shame. On the strength of the 2016 Habit EP and her proven track record of live gigs and support touring, Snail Mail were signed to the prestigious Matador Records label in September of 2017 with newly acquired band members Alex Bass on bass (yes, you read that correctly) and Ray Brown on drums. By early 2018, in preparation for a June 2018 release date for Lush, their 10 track debut LP, Snail Mail were playing their first ever headliner gigs and selling them out. A none too shabby trajectory of success for a recently graduated suburban high school teen still living with her parents!
Much like “Thinner” from the previous EP, Lush is anchored by the powerful breakout track “Pristine”. Interestingly, the song had been written at the same time as much of the older material from the Habit EP but was purposefully held back by Jordan for inclusion on a future project. From a purely structural point of view, both the Habit EP and Lush LP appear quite similar at first; they both begin with bold up-tempo heat seeking material (Habit’s “Thinning” vs Lush’s ”Pristine”) and wind down gradually with sparse minimal shades of quiet guitar and soft vocal phrasings (Habit’s “Stick” vs Lush’s ”Deep Sea”/”Anytime”) but that is where the similarities end. In as much as 2018’s newly minted Lush is polished and precise, 2016’s Habit was edgy and raw. Whereas much of Lush has an intricately arranged deeply produced sound to it, conversely Habit feels more inspired with its off-the-cuff spontaneity and first take live-off-the-floor DIY vibe. Gone are Lindsey Jordan’s endearingly pitchy punk rock note-reaching loud and clear vocal takes from the Habit EP replaced this time around by Lush’s softer smoothed over sensibility.
Regrettably, much of Lush fails to live up to the infinite promise of its predecessor. With the exception of its exhilarating opening and the delightfully sparse and clutter free strains of the albums final moments, Lush ambles along in spite of itself, safe and secure in a mostly fair to middling mid-tempo pocket, almost dream pop but not. With little to no attention paid to the slightest suggestion of hooks let alone the simple building blocks of basic song structure (verse-bridge-chorus-break ad nauseam) Lush quickly loses focus. At worst, much of the structural composition of the songs come off lazy sounding and uninspired. On two separate occasions throughout Lush’s slender 38 minutes, four different tracks (“Speaking Terms”/“Heat Wave” and “Golden Dream”/“Full Control”) seamlessly flow into one another with precious little in the way of forward dynamics to differentiate one track from the other.
Despite all this, Lindsey Jordan’s overriding talent, drive, and determination are beyond self-evident. Her sheer will to succeed has got her to where she is today and will no doubt help project her forward through the long and promising career which surely lies ahead of her. She herself has said she aspires to write a truly timeless record someday. Perhaps she will look back on the spark that propelled her to where she is today and rectify this with what she strives to achieve creatively in the future. To be continued…