Snail Mail - Lush

by Stephen Ong

Snail Mail’s debut album, Lush, comes 2 years after Lindsey Jordan released her first EP, Habit, a mostly solo lo-fi record filled with lyrics about adolescence and boredom. Like many up-and-coming female artists, her words were wiser than her years, and most enticing was the charm of her guitar playing, stemming from her vast experience as a classical guitarist. Now 18, Jordan has returned with a more polished sound on one of the most hotly anticipated albums of the year – Stereogum has rated it the 3rd best album of the year so far and Pitchfork has deemed her the ‘leader in the next generation of indie rock’. So, does she live up to the hype?

Putting Jordan on this high a pedestal is essentially comparing Lush to other great debut albums of the 21st century, like Arcade Fire’s Funeral and The Strokes’ Is This It. Making her the poster kid for today’s indie rock scene feels paradoxical, with Jordan claiming the goal of Lush was to ‘make something that I like’. And yet though Lush doesn’t always deliver, the best songs are the most anthemic, where Jordan channels the teenage angst that Win Butler did on songs like Wake Up and Rebellion (Lies).

Lush is best embodied by Speaking Terms, a track that features a lush guitar riff complemented by lyrics on heartbreak. Every song on Lush is given space to breathe, so while it only has 10 songs (one of which being an intro), the album is just long enough: any longer and each song would begin to blend into the next. The standouts on the album are also the most exciting songs – Pristine is outstanding indie rock that tugs at the heartstrings when Jordan shouts ‘I’ll never love anyone else’, the summer anthem Heat Wave is a guitarist’s dream, building slowly with clean pop-punk power chords juxtaposed with distorted fills, and Full Control is the highlight of Lush, being one of the shortest tracks and featuring one of the most explosive choruses of 2018.

Where Lush can’t compete with albums like Funeral and Is This It is maintaining perfection throughout its 40 minute runtime. Stick is a full band re-recording of the song on Habit, and was the weakest song on the EP. While it’s hugely improved on Lush, any other song from Habit in its place, especially Thinning, could have worked better in place of Stick. Deep Sea, on the other hand, is beautiful instrumentally (trombones!) but suffers from a lack of direction. Its position on the album, too, is questionable, as paired with the stellar, subdued solo track Anytime, Lush risks ending on a boring note.

However, few records today are as consistently enjoyable from front to back as Lush is. Though it may not measure up to the greatest indie albums of the century and therefore does not live up to the hype, the amount of hype proves it has already made its mark on the indie scene. In the context of an 18-year-old’s debut album, it is a near perfect summer record that is incredibly promising for Jordan’s career and an album that many would be proud to have written.