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Snail Mail - "Habit" | Album Review

snail mail cover.jpg

by Arielle Mercier

In college, I was actively writing in a journal. I would document each day, and my ever-changing feelings would flood the pages. I remember looking back at it years later and ripping some of the pages out, embarrassed that I could have had those thoughts. Hearing Habit - a record that was recorded before singer and guitarist Lindsey Jordan’s 17th birthday - has touched that part of me that was committed to keeping that consistent log - through any embarrassing emotion.

Snail Mail is a three-piece from Maryland, made up of Jordan, Alex Bass and Ray Brown. Formed in 2015 on the heels of an inspired experience seeing both Grouper and Downtown Boys, Jordan endeavored to have a band of her own. With Mary Timony (Wild Flag, Helium, Ex Hex, Autoclave) as her guitar teacher, she was well equipped to accomplish this dream. As she was still in high school at the time, she faced a force maybe more daunting than critics and live audiences - a principal that needed to approve her time-off requests. Nevertheless, the group's EP, Habit, was released in July 2016 on Sister Polygon, the independent records label run by the band Priests, whom Snail Mail has opened for. 

Her age is not audible through her yearning alto vocals, making the lyrics that much more engaging. The first track, “Thinning”, opens up a very flowing album, which speaks to the changeability of any individual through different seasons of their lives. “Haven’t felt right in a week / and I’m thinning out / and it hurts bad / I gotta get back” Though the song is literally a confessional of an illness that she was bedridden through, the song accurately illustrated another struggle - one between moments of change and the goal of finding oneself. It's something that this teenager pours her heart into examining with every line.

Lindsey Jordan has a way of remaining mellow through the entire album of ups and downs, steady through her self-reflections, reminiscent of bands like Big Thief and Hop Along. Her dreamy voice lingering through each line, aching in a way that is evocative of Frances Quinlan. The over-arcing feel of the record is best described as sleepy and yearning, her voice delicately crushing your heart at every corner.

Jordan invites the world with each note. The entire album brings me into a particular head space, reminding me that I was not the first, nor the last person, that has ever reached out to the world at a certain point, to find that there was nothing there to console me. She is reminding the world of adolescents that there is more coming, there is a lightness in the dark, and she is looking for it, too. Take “Dirt,” when she belts, “Maybe when I’m 30 I’ll laugh about how dumb it felt,” for a prime example of the fact that she's started to figured this out well before a younger version of me did.