Review Summary: Echoing through bedroom walls
Early last year, Pitchfork’s Jenn Pelly dubbed Lindsey Jordan “Wisest Teenage Indie Rocker” that the publication knew. 17 at the time, the Snail Mail frontwoman had been taking time off school to promote and tour the Baltimore trio’s Habit
EP. (A hiatus which, to be fair, mightn’t have been the worst idea, as the band grew in both sound and status.) In her interview, Jordan spoke pensively and with great confidence on broad themes of confusion and loss, crises of identity inextricable from the realities of growing up – ones since resolved for the songwriter herself, though which are thoughtfully recreated on the band's sophomore release. Whether or not the “wisest” label rings true, however – and I don’t mean to discredit the article, nor its accompanying interview (in truth, both fantastic pieces) – it strikes me as one given with little thought. That, in its haste, overlooks the potential ubiquity of Lindsey’s youthful ramblings.
In tone, Habit
resembles more a question than answer. While opener ‘Thinning’ introduces something altogether dancier in sound than what is present on the remainder of the EP, its lyrics evoke images of loss and being lost. At one point, Jordan begs of herself, “Is this who you are"” An adolescent quandary indeed (in delivery only, not sentiment), though it nevertheless highlights what is one of the band’s greatest strengths: an ability to traverse common threads of mid-day malaise and suburban ennui with an at once pensive, youthful swagger. The music, as a result, sounds as contemplative as it does lethargic, smouldering what is typical indie rock fanfare under a layer of shoegaze influence and subtle, though unwitting pop sensibility. A simple but effective setup of guitars and drums lays lazy foundation for Jordan’s juvenile wails, undoubtedly the project’s centrepiece. Then again, to describe them as such do the vocals little justice: more than she wails, Jordan seems to throw her voice about. Think Frances Quinlan with less a sense of control, perhaps less of a care – a jubilance that, more than it undercuts the record's immersion, makes it all the more charming, emboldening an attractive sprightliness made human via no less a sense of confusion and yearning.
Perhaps I am being a tad harsh on the article. I do think that Habit
shows a remarkable amount of restraint for all its naivety – a naivety that I think is showcased with a certain level of intentionality, one for the sake of ubiquity and communal catharsis. More than any wisdom, it’s a pointed lack of certainty that makes Habit
as engaging as it is. Snail Mail make music to fall asleep at the wheel to – to reaffirm one’s life to – through daydreams and isolation. While its melodies sound far from slaved over, they succeed as a result of their pacing, as though they've been pieced together during a drive home from work. They’re far from meticulous, but they don’t need to be. They are, in a word, thoughtful.