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Snail Mail - "Lush" | Album Review

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by Dalvin Aboagye (@dalvinandhobbes)

A new kind of artist is emerging within the heterogeneous pockets of music floating around online. They are bright, unquestionably talented and produce work that dances between independent genre lines as if they were nothing. All of them skew young; most share the same technologically adept existence of their Gen Z and lateborn millenial peers. Armed with nothing but laptops and modest musical acumen, they hail mostly from suburbs, brewing a myriad of sonic concoctions in the confines of their bedrooms. Although not without precedent, they exhibit a level of authenticity never before seen in their predecessors.

Now one of their own has arrived with her debut. Working off the success of the well-received 2016 EP Habit, indie rock project Snail Mail — spearheaded by 18-year-old Maryland native Lindsey Jordan — has come out of the gate running with a debut offering in the form of Lush. Jordan, the perfect example of the new breed of DIY performer, straddles the line between feeling mundane and personal in this record of youth in transition.

On Lush, Jordan has traded in uncertainty for acceptance in a show of force only achievable through age. She’s been through a change of pace in her day-to-day that’s reflective of the vibe given off by the album. A chapter of her life has closed as she graduated from high school this past spring. She’s on the edge of losing the teenage rocker denomination that many a profile has played on time and again. The glacial pace of the intro track sets the mood for an exceptionally cool LP.

While Habit chronicled the growing pains of adolescence through its muddled soundscape, Lush sounds more brash, serving as the perfect soundtrack for the early years of young adulthood. The previously released singles “Pristine,” “Let’s Find Out” and “Heat Wave” serve an intriguing role as the most high octane tracks on the entire record. The rest are more measured surveys into the events normally experienced at that period of life. Just listen to the steady state of “Speaking Terms” or “Deep Sea,” where the combination of vocals, guitars and drums is meant to elicit a subtle reaction as opposed to a full-on eruption. The progression fits well here.

Jordan’s no stranger to connecting with the listener. As someone who’s been performing in small venues and shows since the age of 15, it’s to be expected that she can forge such a strong link. The all-embracing lyricism she deploys is a testament to her expertise. Each song’s narrative is one that you’ve heard before because it’s most likely one you’ve experienced yourself. On “Stick” she laments about a breach of trust by someone you hold to a high standard: “And it’s a hard trip to the kitchen sink, Cause I can’t wash this one clean/Did you tell all of your friends? Did you tell all of your friends?” She’s an empath, no less. She sneaks in just enough of her own voice to help accentuate the message without alienating the listener.

“Full Control” comes waltzing in with hindsight on the mind: “Don’t even wanna fix it now, Should know better than to wait around/All in a haze, Couldn’t shake it for the rest of the day.” She doesn’t try and ignore her regret. She’s incredibly mindful, acknowledging what she was feeling at that point.

In this rendition of the band’s lineup, Jordan’s accompaniment comes in the form of bass guitarist and high school friend Alex Bass and drummer Ray Brown. Bass’ strings are the perfect companion to Jordan’s melodious guitar work and Brown’s drums rise to any occasion. The difference is minimal coming from the work of former bass guitarist Ryan Vieira and former drummer Shawn Durham on Habit, but consistency is always appreciated. The chemistry between the trio is clean. The effervescent byproduct resulting from their blend is enough to dissolve any derision.

Very few bands can make a discography of only two releases sound as polished as Snail Mail does. Jordan has proven herself as an artist to watch out for in the near future, along with the assistance of Bass and Brown on both sides. Lush isn’t for the kids, it’s for her people. It’s for all of us out their struggling to figure it all out. So far there’s yet to be a flagship project that embodies everything the lo-fi rock is all about, but this one comes close.