Snail Mail – Lush

On Lush, Snail Mail maestro Lindsey Jordan always has something important to say, and it’s worth listening to. Lush is a debut burst forth in full technicolour

Album Review by Tony Inglis | 05 Jun 2018
Album title: Lush
Artist: Snail Mail
Label: Matador
Release date: 8 Jun

It's a welcoming coincidence that Snail Mail maestro Lindsey Jordan is releasing her debut album Lush as Liz Phair’s straight-talking alt-rock classic Exile In Guyville is celebrating its 25th anniversary and being roundly lavished for the influence it went on to have. It’s a timely quirk that was not lost on Matador Records – responsible for releasing both records – who brought the two together for a chat. It may seem like a marketing exercise made in heaven but it is, admittedly, an apt pairing. When Phair set out to make her song-by-song response to what she perceived as the crowning artwork in eons of male expression, The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, she wanted to prove that women could speak their mind as plainly in music as men could and, whether purposefully or not, create a scene where women like her could do the same. Jordan is a direct descendant.

The parallels are all over Lush. There’s the frankness of the lyrics, the eccentricity of the guitar chords, the quick wit and the fully-realised artistic sense of self. It’s an album that sounds like an indie rock classic on first listen and that’s no small feat for a 19-year-old, even in a world that demands success from young people in ever narrowing time spans.

But where Phair was out, in part, to provoke and turn the idea of what a classic record could be on its head, Jordan’s subversion is perhaps in her restrained directness – melodrama is at a minimum but she never sounds like she’s ever thought of holding anything back. She tells it like it is. That can be defiant reluctance to change in the face of a now parted lover (Don’t you like me for me? / Is there any better feeling than coming clean? / And I know myself and I’ll never love anyone else) or the feeling of pining for someone you just can’t shake over a bored, sticky sunlit day (Heat wave nothing to do / Woke up in my clothes having dreamt of you).

Speaking of hot weather, album highlight Speaking Terms' gentle guitar will surely soundtrack a thousand summers to come and that’s in keeping with much of the album’s vibe – Lush is a debut burst forth in full technicolour. Its sound may be conceived in the bottomless pantheon of 90s guitar-led rock, but nothing about its hues are black and white; all ten tracks are oversaturated, like Jordan’s face on the cover.

Snail Mail, as a band, have stepped up, with Jordan as its architect. There is only one hold over from the previous EP Habit ­– Stick – and it's given the full production upgrade you might expect. The loveable scrappiness of that slighter work is gone and on much of the album, bar tracks like Heat Wave and Golden Dream, Jordan’s now widely known Mary Timony-taught guitar chops are reigned in. Although, there is something giddily satisfying to knowing that and still hearing a work that is so utterly assured.

The best indie rock songs can often lean on the shorter side, giving in to the sugar rush of instantly memorable riffs. But Jordan has no qualms about letting her songs draw out, as they do on Lush. That’s because she always has something important to say and it’s worth listening.

Listen to: Pristine, Speaking Terms, Golden Dream