The 18-year-old musician—who goes by the name Snail Mail on stage—has set out on tour buoyed by a wave of positive press. The New York Times, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and NPR Music have all been smitten with the Maryland teen’s fresh take on the sometimes-tired indie rock genre.
Jordan has been playing guitar since age 5, when her parents signed her up for classical guitar lessons. (For reference: Avril Lavigne’s Under My Skin from Arista Records was a year old at the time and Hannah Montana wouldn’t start for another year.) She saw Paramore perform when she was 8 years old and was mesmerized by Hayley Williams. Later, she took lessons from rocker Mary Timony of Wild Flag and Ex Hex, and began playing in underground punk shows early in high school.
Now, Jordan’s debut album, Lush (Matador Records, 2018), shows off her depth as a guitarist; at times it’s moody, sour and jubilant within the same track. Her careful plucking on “Let’s Find An Out” sounds more folk/acoustic than indie rock, while “Pristine” is five minutes of roller coaster emotions wrapped in a single. The album’s sound is decidedly not lo-fi, creating a listening experience that is both digestible and layered.
On “Heat Wave,” the teen’s suburban upbringing comes through in Snail Mail’s poetic-yet-dismissive lyrics. “And I hope the love that you find swallows you wholly…like you said it might.” Lyrically, Jordan manages to show wisdom beyond her years while still relishing the enthusiasm and angst of her youth.
In some way it’s fitting that Lush is out on Matador Records. The label released Liz Phair’s revolutionary feminist record Exile in Guyville in 1993, which challenged the white male dominance of indie rock at the time. Jordan looks up to Phair’s music; she even played in a cover band called Lizard Phair just a few years ago.
But in an interview with Refinery29, the young musician pushed back on the notion that her work should be judged through the now-antiquated lens of “women in bands.”
“Originally, I think where this all started was that in The New York Times, they had that piece that emphasized women in music. I am a big fan of having that conversation, and I am an extremely politically driven person and a feminist who on a personal level really cares about women’t issues," Jordan told Refinery29. "But, it got to the point where it was a hook on the story of Snail Mail…What I really would love to be known for is my songwriting.”
Every once in a while we get the chance to see an artist early in his/her career at a small, memorable show. Boise: You won’t want to miss this shot. Duck Club Presents will bring Jordan to the Funky Taco, an all-ages venue (and new downtown taqueria) on the night of Friday, June 22. Snail Mail will perform with Bonny Doon, and Kinda Kids.