'Lush', the full length debut by Baltimore guitarist and songwriter Lindsey Jordan under the name Snail Mail finally arrived last week amidst much hype, much of it as it turns out, fairly justifiable.
The attention so far has centred on Jordan’s youth (Jordan was born in 1999) relative to her obviously advanced talent. The word prodigious abounds. This is how hype works, patronising and flattering its subject in equal measure, forever obsessed with novelty. Put that to one side and it’s fair to say Jordan has delivered an album worthy of its 90s indie antecedents, even surpassing some of these.
Liz Phair gets mentioned a lot in discussions of Jordan’s music, as do Sonic Youth. The debt to the former is there throughout Lush, and it comes as no surprise to learn that Jordan previously performed in a Phair cover band. The latter spring to mind early on in the serenely poised intro to second single 'Heat Wave', one of several songs to address a romance come unstuck. In these, Jordan is always the one on the losing end, and the songs are of course so much the better for it. These songs in particular have a way of twisting up a notch, Jordan’s vocal throwing the emotional sucker punch just when you thought she might opt for understatement. Over and over again it works, on standout 'Full Control' and the singles 'Pristine' and 'Let's Find An Out' to devastating effect.
Of course, you don't have to be nineteen to get what Jordan is singing about. Insidious boredom, intense friendships, unrequited crushes with the arc of epic romance, etc. All of us have been there, some of us when music first sounded exactly like it does here. And for anyone who actually grew up in the mid to late 90s there's an added hit of borrowed nostalgia to this record which is perfectly, if perhaps unintentionally, allied to the prevailing mood of lovelorn teenage ennui.
"In the end you could waste your whole life anyways / And I want better for you," Jordan sings on closer 'Anytime'. There's a nurturing insight and generosity to this which belies the much talked about youth of the person singing it. Jordan might just as well be talking to herself here, or to anyone on the threshold of adulthood, as to any errant object of affection. As a positive statement of intent it underlines the confidence and facility it takes to make a record this accomplished at any age.
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