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Arts in Review

Rock comes of age on Snail Mail’s Lush

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It’s not easy to make a record about a breakup and have it be both palatable and, more importantly, enjoyable. Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan’s full-length debut manages to do just that.

On Lush, 19-year-old Jordan focuses on filtering clearly personal narratives into a series of songs that are rightly homogenous. Revisiting the same emotions throughout the record, Jordan highlights the ubiquity of young adulthood by not having any of the answers to the questions she asks, but asking them nonetheless.

Especially notable is that, while not of the variety that favours four dudes trading off solos for six minutes, Lush is still very much a rock record. Intimate and vulnerable at times, biting and sarcastic at others, Jordan’s lyricism highlights the moody, drawn-out rhythms that slowly crash over themselves on the record.

Not to tout a record as being representative of a movement that may (or may not) be present in a genre at large, but it seems as if the confessional, unabashedly private narratives of songs like “Full Control,” wherein Jordan exercises her will over the feelings that might otherwise wreck a person when they realize that a relationship is over, are taking over the rock scene. And in the same breath (in this case it’s more of a sigh) with which I exalt Lush, I’m pleasantly bewildered by the shifting attitudes in rock music lately that have seen the genre take a step from the partying and indulgence (instrumentally, and in its narratives) of earlier decades, towards a space wherein softness, for lack of another word, is allowed to flourish without being patronized by the industry or reduced to a public act of contrition.

It’s telling that we have reached a place where one set of pioneers in a genre that used to be so closely knit (because, let’s face it, rock at this point has splintered off into a daunting sea of subgenres and niches) are spread out but tied together by the need to reveal themselves (as opposed to perform themselves). Yes, confessional narratives in music have been around for ages, but the delineation of a personal narrative space in music, however true to life it may or may not be, has for the most part been the realm of pop for the past 20 years. As escapist as some pop narratives may be, that act of holding up a proverbial mirror has of late taken hold over many influential rock releases.

Is it perhaps because, as we become more preoccupied as a society with progress and “keeping up,” the act of taking a step back from the action and allowing oneself to feel, consciously, whatever there may be to feel at the moment, now constitutes a somewhat oppositional action?

If not this, then the act of sharing in experience, of being open, has recently seen more incidence in music. Even when pop, which used to (and, depending on whom you ask, might still) be the most obvious of tools by which we judge the collective temperature of the public, has lost its candor, Lush and records like it, that by virtue of expression remind us that emotional vulnerability and self-actualization are not the same as weakness, continue its tradition of reaching out to the masses.

Whether or not its nakedness (of expression) is reflective of a trend in which the oversaturation of releases in music acts as an embrace in the middle of which those of us who choose to can embrace a vulnerability no longer derided as needlessly sentimental, but lauded as necessarily human, Lush remains as much pop as it is rock, as much meditation as presentation, as formidable as it is actually lush.

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