Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan Surfs a Wave of Sensation Surrounding her Debut Record | Music Feature | Indy Week
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Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan Surfs a Wave of Sensation Surrounding her Debut Record 

On a Wednesday in late June, Lindsey Jordan admits that she's been a bit stressed lately.

"I don't have a lot of time to myself these days," she says.

Though originally from Maryland, she's calling from the West Coast, in the throes of a multi-month headlining tour and a press cycle that never seems to end. Though she keeps a good sense of humor about it all, the eighteen-year-old's schedule is draining. She says she barely had time for Netflix or the modern things that people usually do to unwind.

"It's sick. I really only have time right now to watch TV when I'm desperately trying to force myself to relax," she says.

Her temporary exhaustion is understandable. Three weeks before our conversation, Jordan dropped a remarkable first full-length, Lush, via indie institution Matador Records. The acclaim was instant and universal. Blogs sung her praises through an endless cavalcade of glowing reviews and profiles, which led to a first-week storming of the Billboard Top 100 charts, where she debuted at No. 46. And though the press obsession around her teenage achievements has felt a bit weird and infantilizing at times, the general praise is warranted. Lush's singles, "Pristine" and "Heat Wave," are among Jordan's best tracks. Their melancholic verses and unexpectedly powerful riffs gel into two soaring, instantaneously memorable indie rock songs.

The de facto form of popular indie rock in the late 2010s is nineties revivalism, and older indie record executives have been vigorously pushing the sounds of their own youth onto the latest generation. This is the constant twenty-five-year cycle of culture we seem to live in, and these tendencies often result in a lot of derivative art masquerading as innovation. Lush isn't free from sin in that regard, but it is certainly one of the best, most compelling examples of songwriting to emerge from this moment.

Where other recent bands are content with slavish adherence to the affectations of old indie-rock totems or cake everything in fuzz to disguise their lack of ideas, Jordan's songs go all in on crisp aesthetics and unique, thoughtful assemblage. They arrived fully formed, powerful and immediately memorable, even if they borrow identifiable aesthetic ideas from the past.

Of course, Jordan's recent rapid ascent has also invited a flood of sudden, often uncomfortable personal attention. She notes that acclimating from the early days to the sudden explosion of attention and her current, mostly sold-out tour has been a slow process. For one, she hasn't been able to sift through her Facebook messages in a while, the result of obsessive fans of all ages and hanger-on types who want to catch her ear.

"I use Instagram and Twitter for fun, but I've definitely had to step away from social media [since the record came out]," she says. "I don't check it myself, but I am pretty sure that a lot of the messages I get on Facebook are completely terrifying."

The constant press attention and comparisons to the same few acts probably get old too. I ask her whether she gets tired of constantly being compared to Liz Phair and Helium's Mary Timony. She counters by mentioning that even though she genuinely loves a lot of the music that people compare her to, it helps that a lot of her personal taste is at odds with her work.

"What I write and what I listen to to get inspired can be totally unrelated," she says.

One such example is country—she's a big fan of Lucinda Williams and the 1970s gay country icon Lavender Country and the late folk balladeer Townes Van Zandt.

Jordan also loves punk music, and she says she still has the utmost respect for the original Maryland-area punks who helped strengthen her backbone in her early years. Specifically, she cites the singer Katie Alice Greer and the other members of Washington, D.C., punk stalwarts Priests, who mentored her from a young age. Before her current deal with Matador, she released her first EP Habit on Sister Polygon Records, the record label helmed by members of the band.

"All of them have firm ideas and ethics and are all incredibly driven people. Growing up, they helped me set exact standards early on for what's cool ethically and what's not. What is fair to ask for monetarily for a show, how to effectively respond to obvious sexism in the arts, all that stuff that you have to find your way through," Jordan says. "In a lot of ways, they taught me how to deal with things early on that I only experienced way later."

Jordan's self-deprecating, humble social media presence indicates an endearing sincerity—it's abundantly evident that she's not merely a label-engineered product. It would be equally difficult to argue that Lush isn't one of the strongest, most polished indie rock full-length debuts of the year. When asked about what the most surprising thing about her sudden fame has been, she offers a frank yet genuine answer: "I think it's crazy that these crowds actually know all the words."

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