Snail Mail Debut Stunning and Slow-Burning ‘Lush’

4.5 Stars

It’s smack in the middle of June, which means it’s well into that time of the year: the euphoria from having pushed through to the end of an unsympathetic semester; the starry-eyed bliss from having then allowed yourself to conjure up images of forthcoming, perfectly blithe summer days. In its place insists summertime sadness—have you ever imagined that the brightest and freest days of the year could also be the most lonely and isolating?

Lindsey Jordan, who fronts the Baltimore-based indie-rock trio Snail Mail, understands this sense of loneliness inside and out and has made an entire album about it. “Lush,” Snail Mail’s stunning Matador debut and first full-length record, is a diaristic collage that confronts heartbreak, confusion, and yearning in the most drawn out and isolating months of the year. Across the record, Jordan’s threads of thought play out how one might imagine the wandering mind of a 20-something curled up in bed at night, darting endlessly from one emotionally consuming rumination to the next. These clear-eyed and emotionally precise musings are brought to life by gorgeously spun visions of summer: golden mornings, heat waves, and the sun together spattering brilliant blues, greens, and reds across the sky.

Lead single and album opener “Pristine” is prefaced by a daydream of an intro in which Jordan opens the record in a lo-fi, stream-of-consciousness haze, and orients us squarely in the middle of her emotional landscape: “Don’t you like me for me? / Is there any better feeling than coming clean? / I know myself, and I’ll never love anyone else,” Jordan sings atop steady, textured riffs and an unhurried backbeat, sounding both confounded and resigned at once. It’s a strange and uneasy hybrid of a feeling, and on a good deal of “Lush,” Jordan tries her hand at reconciling it, flitting from insobriety to hardcore partying and never encountering much success. “It just feels like the same party every weekend, doesn’t it?” she continues on “Pristine,” and reprises similar sentiments on “Heat Wave” and “Golden Dream.” On “Heat Wave,” the album’s emotional centerpiece, Jordan takes the same hopeless solitude and draws a clever parallel with the grueling midsummer heat. The track unfurls with sweeping, delicate licks on an electric guitar, gorgeously arranged to call to mind the early rays of sunlight pouring between the blinds of a window. “Heat wave, nothing to do / Woke up in my clothes having dreamt of you,” Jordan muses—trading only a fistful of words for bullseye emotional precision, she conjures an image of someone crawling back into bed in the middle of a blazing July afternoon, physically incapacitated by heartbreak.

On the record’s slow-burning second half, Jordan’s ruminations grow more and more inscrutable, resembling disjointed strings of immediate thought rather than coherent narratives, but never losing the emotional exactitude that makes them so accessible. On “Let’s Find An Out,” she remembers the month of June through a rose-tinted filter, set in place by a celestial marker of summertime—the strawberry moon—before drifting from one worry to another, none of which are ever straightly described, but nonetheless ring with self-absorption and confusion. Later, the ¾-time ballad “Deep Sea” continues sifting through a smattering of reflections, entwined with loping and lovely guitarwork before reaching an emotional pinnacle: “It took so long to know someone like you,” Jordan sings quietly. Her disarrayed, impassioned thoughts manage to capture the emotional exhaustion of unrequited longing more shrewdly than any plainly described account, and this makes much sense. What emotional palette could be harder and more complicated to pin down than that of having to pull yourself together after realizing your devotion is one-sided—and worse, having to do it completely alone?

“Anytime,” a track that Jordan has had up her sleeve since at least September of last year, closes the record, is a framing of its opening moments. But it’s clearer this time, without any of the initial haze. We’re led through a delicate smorgasbord of thoughts soundtracked to rich, honeyed riffs, with Jordan’s voice the most immaculate it has ever sounded. Still riddled with the same loneliness and confusion, she offers a few final thoughts before the album comes to a close. “I’ve gotten to know the quiet / And still forgive you, anytime,” she sings at the end of it all, seeming to have come to terms with forgiveness as a way to see herself through the sweltering, solitary stretch of days ahead. Her quiet assurance is an endearing way to round off the lovely record she’s created.

—Staff writer Patricia M. Guzman can be reached at



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