LUSH by Snail Mail
Genre: Dream Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Pristine,” “Heat Wave,” “Let’s Find An Out,” “Speaking Terms”
At 19 years old, Lindsey Jordan uses LUSH’s 38 minutes to make it very clear that she knows who she is and what she wants. The album opener to Snail Mail’s eagerly anticipated debut LUSH, aptly titled “Intro,” is deceptively lo-fi in its production, with a sparse single guitar line carrying Jordan’s reverb-drenched vocals. The shortest track on the album, it has enough time to establish the lyrical themes of honesty and acceptance that characterize the album as a whole, but that self-assuredness is perfectly summarized in the opening lines of “Intro” as she tells herself, “Go get it all, let ‘em watch.”
“Intro” fades into lead single “Pristine,” bringing Jordan’s powerful vocals front and center. The song is simple, yet dynamic, full of clean rolling guitars and soaring vocals, and line after line of quotable teenage maxims that have more likely than not have been feverishly scribbled into diaries of hopelessly conflicted adolescents time and time again. With lyrics like, “Is there any better feeling than coming clean,” Jordan displays a determined and straightforward sense of self-awareness that seems to be an anomaly for someone her age. If this level of maturity and comfort with accepting things as they are existed within anyone I associated with when I was 19, it was easily silenced and overpowered with a suggestion of “shut up and have another drink.”
Jordan continues to dole out her youthful wisdom in “Speaking Terms,” where she laments a failed relationship over a dreamy guitars and airy synths. While the subject matter is certainly a staple in emotional songwriting, Jordan’s spin on the content sets her take apart from her predecessors and contemporaries. She’s not begging for a second chance and offering to change for her ex, she’s confidently letting them know she will not let them “take [her] for a ride.” It’s not to assume that Jordan is some kind of advanced super human that has somehow found a way to bypass all the anger, blame, and frustration that comes with teenage romance—all of these things are present in the lyrics on LUSH. But Jordan’s words do not simply focus on the pain of experiencing these things, but her experience on coming to terms with the past in order to move forward.
This thoughtfulness is further exemplified on album highlight “Heat Wave,” as she comes to terms with the fact that her and a lover just aren’t on the same page. The track steps up Jordan’s laid-back guitar style with tasteful distorted leads and a brief, but ripping, solo. It’s heartbreaking to hear Jordan wish her ex the best in her new fling, but the pain is offset by her sense of acceptance that it wasn’t going to work because she’s “not into sometimes.” Jordan is tackling the rejection, isolation, and disappointment the majority of teens will struggle with, but instead of just letting us all know that yes, life does fucking suck, she also reminds us that there is always a lesson to be learned that may just help life suck a little less in the future.
“Let’s Find An Out” is another standout track, highlighting Jordan’s classical guitar training with lovely picked melodies over a minimal rhythm section. The structure of the song is the least conventional on the album, presented as three verses with no hook or repetition, but that doesn’t stop Jordan from showing off her vocal prowess. It’s the second shortest track on LUSH, clocking in at just over two minutes, but it is easily the most interesting cut on the album.
LUSH is a fantastic album, but it’s does have its lulls. Tracks like “Stick,” “Golden Dream,” and “Deep Sea” seem to blend together musically and drag on a little too long. This could be argued as issue with LUSH as a whole; while there are definitely enough moments to remind you that Lindsay Jordan is a great guitarist, the majority of the songs are built around dreamy chord progressions and simple arrangements. Jordan’s lyrics are crucial to elevating each of the tracks, as the relatable nature of the subject matter is what draws the listeners in, and their commitment to honesty and acceptance of one’s situation justify that simplicity.
LUSH’s closing track “Anytime” reprises “Intro,” expanding the lyrics of the album opener and stressing the importance of being able to let go for the sake of personal growth. One can not help but be impressed yet again by Jordan’s enlightened take of the teenage condition; the reprisal gives a sense of coming full circle, the end of a story of self knowledge, and the power of personal experience, delivered in the form of a phenomenal indie rock album. Snail Mail’s LUSH is full of simple and raw teenage wisdom that is successful not because it champions an idealism that is inherent in youth, but because it promotes a sense of maturity and acceptance of life’s shortcomings that can melt away a prom night grudge in even the most cynical son of a bitch.