These days, it’s all the rage to stand on stage and read your teenage diary to strangers for laughs. We were all infinitely more earnest when we were young, and our tales of unrequited love and heartbreak are often hilariously cringeworthy now, mostly because we were so sure that no one else was having experiences quite as important and formative as ours. So it sets off certain alarm bells when people use words like “confessional” and “angsty” to describe a young artist’s music.
In the case of Lush, the debut album by Snail Mail, confessional doesn’t translate to cheesy or cliched; clearheaded would be a better word for 19-year-old Lindsey Jordan’s music. Yes, her lyrics are intimate and soul-baring, and her music easily fits into the jangly indie-rock category, but there’s something refreshingly unwavering and straightforward about her approach. Part of it has to do with the album’s high production values: this is no muddy-sounding indie recording. It has a big, spacious sound, and you can clearly hear every word she sings.
Jordan has a knack for writing simple lyrics that nail messy emotions. “And I know myself and I’ll never love anyone else,” she declares on “Pristine,” summing up how we felt about every single one of our teen relationships. On the woozy “Heat Wave,” she tells a lover who she knows will eventually move on, “And I hope whoever it is / Holds their breath around you / ’Cause I know I did.” The same song sees her stating point-blank, “I’m not into sometimes.” Jordan’s brand of confessions aren’t coy or self-conscious. Even when she’s not sure what she wants, she expresses herself with a confidence that almost none of us had when we were her age.
It shouldn’t still be news that a woman can be a great guitarist, but it’s nonetheless important to note that Jordan really is good. Classically trained since the age of five, she now takes guitar lessons from indie-rock legend Mary Timony of Helium and Ex Hex. On “Heat Wave,” she channels J Mascis with huge, gorgeously discordant fuzz. “Let’s Find An Out” spotlights intricate fingerpicking, and “Stick” finds Jordan unleashing beautifully melancholy waves of guitar on a song that’s like a shimmering wall of sadness.
Lush contains more than a few moments that remind the listener of the ’90s band of the same name. This can’t be an accident. Considering Jordan’s guitar-heavy sound and her name-checking of Timony, Hayley Williams, and even Avril Lavigne in interviews, Jordan definitely means to hark back to the glory days of female-fronted indie-rock bands. But she’s not a throwback act: she has her own unique thing going on, and it doesn’t borrow from Lavigne’s faux-punk posturing or Emma Anderson’s breathy harmonies.
On standout song “Full Control,” about a lover whose bad behavior is pushing her back and forth between anger and resignation, Jordan belts out the two-word title as if she truly is in control of the situation she’s singing about—or maybe she’s just willing herself to be. Either way, Jordan’s combination of confidence and confession is what makes this album meaningful, and worth many more listens.
Notable Tracks: “Full Control” | “Heat Wave” | “Let’s Find An Out”