The best show I went to last year wasn’t at some large concert hall or at a festival; it was at a small bar in Chicago. My girlfriend and I got there early to get a good spot to see the headliner Girlpool and planned on just mingling until they went on. I was so involved in a conversation that I hadn’t even noticed the opening band, Snail Mail, had set up but the moment they started playing I was transfixed.
This was mainly due to the voice of singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan. At only 17 she had such a command of her voice that it rendered that entire bar speechless. Her songs were long and winding tales of teenage love and heartbreak that had a depth most of her older contemporaries couldn’t match. It was clear in that moment that Jordan was on the cusp of something grand, and with the release of her debut album, Lush, it was a pleasure to see her get there.
At the forefront of Snail Mail’s music is Jordan’s voice and writing and thankfully that remains of the case for Lush. Across these ten tracks, Jordan sounds more in control than she did on her EP, Habit, delivering more confident vocals and songwriting. And with most of the songs pushing the five-minute mark, it’s easy to get lost in the worlds Jordan paints.
Lead single “Pristine” is a great example of the power of the album, the song feels like one of those late night car rides where you lay it all on the line. Jordan sings of an ex-lover and her numbness to the “same party every weekend” and gives every word a weight to them that makes the listener feel a friend that she’s confiding in.
Then there is the absolutely gorgeous album centerpiece “Let’s Find An Out” which is a summer heartbreak jam that finds Jordan begging for a chance to start again with someone. And it speaks to the strength of Jordan’s writing that we really buy into what she’s saying. Because it’s easy to see where these songs could fall into teenage melodrama, but Jordan truly believes in her words and in turn so do we.
A song like “Heat Wave” especially benefits from this, Jordan sings about moving on from a heartbreak but pushing back from every step forward she takes. She also hopes for the best for her ex-lover singing, “I hope whoever it is holds their breath around you, cause I know I did.” It’s a beautiful sentiment and shows a level of maturity that sets Jordan apart from other writers.
It helps then that the music around Jordan has also matured, with a better recording set up these songs are able to really come into their own. From the harmonies on “Deep Sea” to the artful fingerpicking on “Speaking Terms” it’s nice to hear Snail Mail coming into their own as a band.
The most notable change is on the song “Stick” which is actually an older song rerecorded for Lush. This newer version feels meatier with Jordan’s voice coming out stronger, but also the drums and guitar having more of a presence. It takes what was a pretty good song and turns it into an emotional powerhouse that will leave you feeling misty-eyed.
Lush isn’t a completely flawless record though, some of the songs do stretch their run times a little too long and the closer “Anytime” doesn’t send the record off with the emotional high it demands. But for a first-time effort, Jordan succeeds in making a place for herself in the conversation of current indie greats. Just like the album’s title. Jordan’s world is lush and full of feeling, and this first glimpse is one I’ll be returning to.
Lush is out now on Matador Records.