Snail Mail - Habit

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2017-07-28

Snail Mail’s debut EP, Habit, is being rereleased on vinyl giving an opportunity for new buzz to be generated for this worthy first effort. Snail Mail is essentially Maryland based songwriter Lindsey Jordan, with her drummer and bass player from this recording already a footnote in SM’s hopefully long history. Still in high school when recorded, Jordan does as any writer with a guitar and a bit of angst would do – work things out through confessional songs. The music itself has a prototypical lo-fi sound, but Jordan’s guitar playing is accomplished enough to make things interesting and her controlled vocals and lyrical content set it apart from many first releases.

Topics here range from being sick and housebound, fear of moving forward, and grappling with recurring troubling thoughts and dreams. The opening track ‘Thinning’ kicks things into gear with a mildly distorted and propulsive guitar line, Jordan’s voice surefooted and expressive without going too far – the song dealing with protracted sickness and thinning out literally and figuratively. Many of the songs contend with being cooped up as in ‘Thinning’, with ‘Habit’ struggling with the fear of succumbing but also the realization that’s not an option. She shows some tongue and cheek turns claiming her shutters are keeping the sunlight in on ‘Sonic Buzz’ and also the prescience on ‘Dirt’ to know that down the road she will look back and laugh on her current feelings. The confessional nature of the songs comes off as brave not mopey, which is a tough line to navigate and shows maturity which should continue to bloom.

Closing the EP is ‘Stick’ which is just vocal and a more muted guitar sound recalling Julien Baker’s approach. The song is a showcase for Jordan’s talents, hitting some high notes and arpeggios, while leaving the listener longing for the next chapter of working things through. Given the gap from digital/cassette release to vinyl, hopefully she is well on her way with another batch of songs. In the meantime, she has been on the road with Waxahatchee and I’m sure commanding the room from her opening slot. Be thankful this snail found its way out onto the path for us to follow.    

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