Music

Snail Mail's Debut Album Has Three Great Songs

Photo: Michael Lavine / Courtesy of Matador Records

Which unfortunately means it also has seven less than great songs.

Lush
Snail Mail

Matador

8 June 2018

Lush is the debut album from Snail Mail, also known as Baltimore-area musician Lindsey Jordan. As of this writing, Jordan is still a teenager, which gives the album's meditative teen angst lyrics true authenticity. Her youth maybe helps explain why so many of the songs on the album sound so similar to each other. Although to be fair, plenty of older artists also deal with this issue at times.

The album opens with "Intro", a short (73 seconds) song with just Jordan playing a simple guitar accompaniment to her mumble-mouth singing. It's pretty and unadorned, but the way Jordan runs her words together gives the song a gauzy kind of feel. That turns out to indeed be a pretty good intro for Snail Mail because even though Jordan doesn't sing like this on every song, there is a hazy feel to most of the record. Intentionally or not, it's also an auditory representation of the album cover, where Jordan sits with a dazed look on her face and her mouth half-open.

Second song "Pristine" is the lead single, and it's a great one. The song is mid-tempo, but Jordan's guitar playing has an urgency to it that gives the whole track energy. Her bandmates Ray Brown on drums and Alex Bass on bass match that energy level and the whole song soars. Jordan's singing is much clearer and more passionate here, and she comes up with a vocal melody that highlights her best range, pushing into the high notes at just the right places. Lines like "Don't you like me for me" and "I know myself, and I'll never love anyone else" capture the rush of infatuation, while "If it's not supposed to be / Then I'll just let it be" is the unconvincing defensive emotional shield.

It's a shame that most of the rest of Lush doesn't live up to those standards. There's a whole host of other songs on the album that follow similar templates to "Pristine" but are much less effective. "Speaking Terms" backs off on the intensity and has a decent guitar riff but is much less interesting melodically. "Heat Wave" adds fuzz guitar leads in the hopes of spicing up the third mid-tempo, slightly jangly indie rock song in a row. It does, but only for the bridge and guitar solo of a five-minute-plus song. "Stick" slows things down and changes up the time signature to 6/8 and has some really nice drum work from Brown. Yet it still has trouble standing out amongst the rest of the songs here.

It isn't until sixth track "Let's Find an Out" that Snail Mail manages to perk up the ears again. Jordan changes up her guitar tone for a cleaner, near-acoustic sound and turns in a pretty folk ballad with just a whisper of drums and bass accompanying her. It puts her voice in a different setting, and it's very effective.

Then Jordan goes right back to her wheelhouse and continues to play songs that sound like "Pristine" but aren't as good.Lush's penultimate track "Deep Sea" slows things way down and adds a French horn, which at least gives the song some character. The album finishes with "Anytime", which foregrounds Jordan's voice more than any other song on the record. This simple production change makes the song stand out; it also happens that it has a compelling vocal melody to justify putting her voice front and center. The song adds a quiet organ when the music swells but eschews drums completely. These are savvy arrangement choices that make "Anytime" memorable.

"Pristine", "Let's Find an Out", and "Anytime" are all really strong songs, but they aren't enough to make Lush a good album. What they do is show that Lindsey Jordan has a lot of (the dreaded) potential as a songwriter that she isn't fully realizing yet. The rest of the album is too similar in sound and style to do much besides blur together. I'll concede, however, that as a 41-year-old man driving around in the Texas summer sun listening to Snail Mail, I might not be in the best age range or environment for the album to click. Younger people listening in cooler climates and darker times of day could well get a lot more out of Lush than I did.

5

Music

Books

Film

Recent
By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam
Music

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.

Music

Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.

Music

L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.

Books

Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.

Music

Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.

Music

Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.

Music

West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".

Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.