Snail Mail

Lush

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Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Lindsey Jordan was already a known entity in the Baltimore and D.C. music scenes as a high schooler. A near-life-long guitarist, she was taking lessons from Mary Timony (Helium, Ex Hex) around the time she released her first Snail Mail EP as a 16-year-old in 2016. While the guitar work is a focal point of her style in general, it regularly borders on mesmerizing on her full-length debut, 2018's Lush. Balancing dreamy, complex chords and seductive melodies on the instrument, songs like "Speaking Terms" and "Let's Find an Out" have the subtle effect of seeming to sing with accompaniment before her voice makes an entrance. When it does enter, her vulnerable vocal delivery, combined with vexed lyrics that are both confessional and observational in nature, often sounds like a private, handwritten letter that, once out of her system, she'll immediately crumple up and leave burning in an ashtray. At the end of "Golden Dream," for instance, she rants "Stupid, stupid me" for a cathartic 30 seconds. She's joined on most of the album by drums and bass, giving further texture and volume to her own forthright presence. One of a couple exceptions to that is the aforementioned "Let's Find an Out," which has especially light drums and percussion, in contrast to the crashing cymbals of certain other moments on the record. That opens up space for spare keyboards and anxious rumination. Even the lusher, more driving tracks like "Pristine" and "Full Control" still feel intimate, though. That's due to not only her lyrics and impulsive style of melodic phrasing, but to the hazy quality of her guitar tones, and the wistful, subtly rich chord progressions that come across like complicated moods. It's an impressive formula for a debut, and one that succeeds whether listeners are tuning in more for the soundscape or more for the sentiment.

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