Lindsey Jordan’s first studio album as Snail Mail, Lush, solidifies her place in the indie-rock landscape, with songs that are confident in their perspective and delivery. Despite her young age and one official EP under her belt, Jordan’s songs here don’t feel like they only exist to prove something, or just to get a full-length out there. You get the sense throughout the album that these songs flowed seamlessly out of Jordan the moment she picked up a guitar.
Jordan has stated the goal of the album as getting listeners to cry “into a tub of ice cream” by the end, and it’s a completely feasible goal; the just-the-right-length album features songs that have to do with any and all phases of ending a relationship or loving someone who doesn’t or can’t reciprocate your feelings, and they’re sung with such naked vulnerability that you have to feel something about it all.
The mood established by the Snail Mail discography is one of barebones heartache, with the image of the singer as someone sitting in her bedroom and pouring out her heart into a ‘90s-era tape recorder. That continues here, with the album immediately bringing you into Jordan’s intimate world with “Intro,” a short song that lets Jordan’s sorrow-tinged voice shine through. “Pristine” follows, and with its opening notes carrying a whiff of the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong,” transports you to a grungier kind of melancholy that is particularly fitting for Jordan’s vocal and musical styling. The song has Jordan claiming confidently to someone that she knows herself and will “never love anyone else,” even though the person she sings to is guilty of changing their personality and feelings to fit who they think they should be. It’s a thornier situation and song than what is typically offered in less-nuanced songs about unrequited love or heartache, and indicative of the specificity Jordan brings to each track, despite each generally being about similar emotions.
The album’s tracks are arranged successfully so that, even though each song is delivered at the relative same tempo and emotional pitch, the songs volley between softer, slightly more introspective songs and songs with a heartrending emotional crescendo. For instance, after the high of “Pristine,” we move through a sadder, slightly slower “Speaking Terms” and then into “Heat Wave,” which gradually rises within its five minutes to a heavy finale employing a potent mixture of Jordan’s vocals, guitar and drum work to convey the singer’s exhaustion with “sometime” hookups in place of an old relationship. “Stick,” a song depicting that depressed-anxious mixture that arises at your most lonely and frustrated, echoes that mental self-flagellation so achingly that the song almost compels you to hold your breath and tense your shoulders while listening. If you don’t have a tub of ice cream handy, a very large drink might be equally effective at lifting your mood.
Thankfully, after “Stick” we’re given a kind of palate cleanser with “Let’s Find an Out,” the shortest song on the album outside of the “Intro,” which uses sparse instrumentation and sounds relatively optimistic compared to the surrounding tracks. The final four tracks act as a long goodbye to the album, a siphoning off of this bittersweet misery. While “Golden Dream” is one of just a couple songs on the album that are “just fine,” “Full Control” lets Jordan soar for just a second during her chorus exclamation of her being in “full control/even when I’m in love/or not.” It’s a brief, uplifting moment that feels welcome after the hard journey traveled so far. “Deep Sea,” while a little emotionally inscrutable, contains some of Jordan’s most beautiful and evocative lyrics with “deep sea dive…/it’s only you down there/you and that bend/…lose your mind/lose track of breathing and time/… sleep with the tides.” The song effectively creates a sound that evokes being deep under an ocean—literal or metaphorical—and becomes more memorable than it would be otherwise because of that.
The album ends with “Anytime,” which is a reprise and expansion of the “Intro,” that successfully wraps up the entire album’s themes and emotional experience. Jordan sings “I’ve gotten to know the quiet and [I’d] still forgive you anytime,” which echoes the many songs here that refer to dealing with sudden loneliness, heartbreak, longing and the love for a person that is unavoidably stuck inside of you forever. Lush is a reckoning with that realization and a work-through of the thorny and often unpleasant emotions that come with a one-sided love.
There are a couple bumps or lags along the way, but ultimately Snail Mail gets you to that point where a tub of ice cream isn’t such a bad idea. The Snail Mail sound is solid and here to stay, and Jordan’s future songs will be something to look forward to with interest, as her talent is likely to keep growing from this point forward.