Signed to Matador Records mere months after graduating from high school, singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan has steadily garnered recognition from a slew of major media outlets for her candid lyrics, dexterous use of open guitar tunings, and unconventional chord progressions. Even under the weighty burden of heightened media attention and critical acclaim, her band Snail Mail’s full-length debut, Lush, unflinchingly delivers more of the raw authenticity that made the Maryland slowcore outfit’s 2016 EP, Habit, so magnetic, while boasting both a newfound maturity and musicality.
The mellow guitar of the verses on the album’s first single, “Pristine,” suits Jordan’s placid singing—and brings to mind the unmistakable guitar rhythms of Sonic Youth—which contrasts with the emphatic yearning of the chorus. “I’ll never love anyone else,” Jordan cries, matching the intensity of the track’s fierce guitar stabs and cymbal crashes. In spite of the singer’s contemplations on unrequited love, “Pristine” isn’t entirely melancholic. As she puts it: “Is there any better feeling than coming clean?”
Jordan, who recently came out as gay, conveys this purgative sentiment across the album’s 10 songs. On “Heat Wave,” a quicksilver guitar lick pierces through the track’s sleepy guitar rhythm as she renounces escapism, allowing herself to feel the pain of rejection. Jordan is sanguine on the searing chorus, wishing her green-eyed crush the best, albeit bitingly so. Again, her contemplations, however painful, provide cathartic release, leading her to the realization that on-again, off-again love may not be enough. “I’m not into sometimes,” she sings quietly, before confidently repeating it at the song’s end.
On perhaps the album’s most vulnerable song, “Deep Sea,” Jordan reckons with the loss of a lover and the happiness they could have shared. Producer Jason Aron’s deft touch is evident in the careful arrangement of muted drums and guitar, and the ghostly mixing of Jordan’s voice. A plaintive French horn cuts through the track’s spellbinding reverie, marking the only time an instrument besides guitar is featured prominently on the album. Jordan comes clean once again, recognizing full well that the end has arrived when she exclaims, “Die, my love,” her voice on the verge of cracking.
Jordan emerges from a depressive haze on the anthemic “Full Control” to regain command over her life; the song, both lyrically and musically, would have felt out of place on Habit, which summoned up specters of old love and evoked the ennui of suburban life, with Jordan at risk of getting swallowed up in the emotional turmoil. Although Lush is similarly steeped in longing and uncertainty, Jordan ultimately transcends much of the chaos, coming out stronger on the other side. Habit communicated the anguish of endings, but Lush offers hope for new beginnings, arriving at a liberating quietus.