Snail Mail's sentiments of ennui transcend age.
Snail Mail is the project of 17-year old Maryland native Lindsey Jordan, who although still in high school, has already played at a handful of well-trodden indie rock incubators. Although she’s joined by drummer Shawn Durham and bassist Ryan Veira, Jordan wrote Snail Mail’s newest EP Habit alone in her bedroom; a haven where longing, confusion, and creative expression mingle to form the amorphous foundations of a teenager's earliest form of identity. But Jordan’s sentiments of ennui transcend her years, allowing a broader audience to relate to her music while bucking the tiresome trend of teen dream nostalgia.
While first listening to Habit I asked myself, how could someone singing about being so despondent and intent on doing nothing produce something that inspires a feeling of hope rather than hopelessness? The first 30 seconds of Habit rev like a well-tuned engine. The low, churning bass line feels earnest and guarded as the guitar and drums build towards Jordan’s opening declaration of malaise: “Haven’t felt right in a week / And I’m thinning out.” At first, the let-down in "Thinning" seems incongruous with the track’s climactic opening — as if we’ve made it to the top of the hill and there’s nothing ahead but a plateau, a busted engine, and a white flag to wave. But that’s exactly the reigning sentiment throughout Habit’s six tracks: the feeling of spinning your wheels and remaining stagnant. Summer may be the perfect season for bumming around and wasting time, but on “Thinning” Jordan proudly proclaims that she would prefer spending the entire year lying face down doing only that. It may be better to try and fail than never to try at all, but it’s certainly easier to do the latter while lying in bed and binging on Netflix.
On “Static Buzz,” another song about holing up indoors, Jordan passively watches TV and wonders “who thinks of it all”— suggesting an attempt to fathom the creative force that goes into making television shows as if it were only one or two people responsible for everything. It’s an overwhelming thought, but one that easily arises when creative processes are obscured and the artist is left with a stifling pressure to be fully responsible for every aspect of their work, to be nothing less than perfect on the first try. Jordan’s voice rockets to a near shriek to deliver the next line — “We could be watching the same thing”— then dips into a low monotone dripping with disappointment: “But I always shock myself when I plug it into the wall.” Habit is full of beautiful vocal moments like this, harnessing the feeling of building yourself up to something only to bum yourself out right after. With track titles like “Slug” and “Stick,” Habit primarily deals with the feeling of being stuck, but not without providing a means for digging yourself out. Whether you’re stuck in your house when everyone else is going out or you’re stuck on another person who doesn’t feel the same way back, the result is stifling and unavoidable, especially when you’re experiencing stagnation or rejection for the first time. As suffocating as it is, Jordan knows the feeling won’t last forever. On “Dirt” she sings, “Baby when I’m 30 / I’ll laugh about how dumb it felt,” knowing that when thinning out is your biggest problem, all it takes is a little perspective and patience to ride it out.
Listen to Snail Mail on bandcamp.
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Kate Leib is an illustrator and multimedia designer from New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter for more music things and pictures of her beloved rabbit, Bandit.