Lindsey Jordan is on the brink of something huge, and she’s only just graduated high school. Her voice rises and falls with electricity throughout Lush, her debut album as Snail Mail, spinning with bold excitement and new beginnings at every turn.


“Is there any better feeling than coming clean?” sings the eighteen-year- old guitarist and songwriter halfway through the sprawling anthem that is “Pristine,” the album’s first single. You can’t help but agree with her. It’s a hook that immediately sticks in your head—and a question she seems to be grappling with throughout the record’s 10-songs of crystalline guitar pop.

Throughout Lush, Jordan’s clear and powerful voice, acute sense of pacing, and razor-sharp writing cut through the chaos and messiness of growing up: the passing trends, the awkward house parties, the sick-to- your-stomach crushes and the heart wrenching breakups. Jordan’s most masterful skill is in crafting tension, working with muted melodrama that builds and never quite breaks, stretching out over moody rockers and soft-burning hooks, making for visceral slow-releases that stick under the skin.

Lush feels at times like an emotional rollercoaster, only fitting for Jordan’s explosive, dynamic personality. Growing up in Baltimore suburb Ellicot City, Jordan began her classical guitar training at age five, and a decade later wrote her first audacious songs as Snail Mail. Around that time, Jordan started frequenting local shows in Baltimore, where she formed close friendships within the local scene, the impetus for her to form a band. By the time she was sixteen, she had already released her debut EP, Habit, on local punk label Sister Polygon Records.

In the time that’s elapsed since Habit, Jordan has graduated high school, toured the country, opened for the likes of Girlpool and Waxahatchee as well as selling out her own headline shows, and participated in a round-table discussion for the New York Times about women in punk -- giving her time to reflect and refine her songwriting process by using tempered pacings and alternate tunings to create a jawdropping debut both thoughtful and cathartic. Recorded with producer Jake Aron and engineer Johnny Schenke, with contributions from touring bandmates drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass as well, Lush sounds cinematic, yet still perfectly homemade.

The songs on Lush often come close to the five-minute mark, making them long enough to get lost in. The album’s more gauzy and meditative songs play out like ideal end-of- the-night soundtracks, the kind that might score a 3am conversation or a long drive home, from the finger-picking of “Speaking Terms” to the subtle, sweeping harmonies and French horn on “Deep Sea.” It only makes sense that Jordan wrote these songs late at night during a time when she was obsessively reading Eileen Myles and listening to a lot of slowcore and folk songwriters.

“Heat Wave” is one of the album’s most devastating moments, a song that wallows in a crumbling mid-summer relationship. “I broke it off, called out of my shift, and just cried in my bathtub and wrote this song,” Jordan recalls. “I was just so desperate to just get the way I was feeling out onto paper so that I could just have it and be done with it. It was almost kind of painful. It was like puking onto paper, and crying, ‘This girl hurt my feelings!’ Towards the end of writing the record, I became better at dealing with my emotions.”

Jordan’s personal crown jewel of the album, “Let’s Find an Out,” puts her childhood classical guitar training on display. It’s a road song of sorts, a nod to feeling young and disoriented on her first ever tour: “I’d gotten knocked around a lot by the process. I was scared. It’s sort of this love song about another person who is going through the same thing.” “You’re always coming back a little older / but it looks alright on you,” she belts over her intricate playing, on one of the album’s most pensive and gorgeous moments. Lucky for us all, she doesn’t sound scared anymore.

The cover image of Long Beard’s debut album, Sleepwalker, is a single yellow and orange hued lampshade in the foreground with silhouetted trees and the final moments of dusk in the background. The lampshade, under closer examination, is decorated with paisleys and floral patterns. The twilit night is starless yet clear as the final tinges of light are washed out of the sky. These elements, when laid out side by side, do a pretty good job of presenting a visual representation of what the debut album from Leslie Bear, aka, Long Beard is about. That is to say, there’s a limited palette at work on this album, these songs and the instruments assembled to articulate their beauty employ a strict sense of what is permissible and avoid what will only muddy the contrasts and moods.

In this sense, the orange and the paisley are Leslie’s hypnotic and drifting vocal style. The blacks and the blues are the guitar tones and rhythm section employed by producer Chris Daly the band (Devin Silvers on bass and Stefan Koekemoer on drums). Calculated to a degree that’s reminiscent of early Kranky Records acts like Labradford, Magnog or Bowery Electric as well as the constructions of groups like The Pale Saints, Cat’s Miaow or Lush, the sonic restrictions present on Sleepwalker make it singular in vision and thus intense to the ear. It spooks, it grows cold, it lifts up with tremendous beauty and then it turns so dim it becomes impossible to discern from the sounds of night.

This is the result of Leslie Bear’s four year journey to make the album, crafting songs from her home in New Brunswick NJ but avoiding the final execution until the rules of the album were articulate and of a singular vision. The Long Beard debut touches lyrically on themes that one often associates with the transition into adulthood in modern America: growing apart from those you were once close to, premature nostalgia and a sense of time passing, how seasons and cycles create the clock of poetry and song despite the modern world’s efforts to extinguish this timeless truth.

It’s day and night, light and dark, the loud and the quiet, the lush and the colorless; these are the ingredients that result in one of the year’s most beautiful and mesmerizing releases. Making the point that less is more, it does so not by employing minimalism, but rather by finding the perfect guitar tone, the perfect vocal effect and the perfect song and adding those elements to the mix while ignoring the temptation to flower it up with anything more. Disciplined and focused, Sleepwalker is the record you play when twilight is upon you, when night has set and you find yourself alone and witness to the dramatic and profound beauty of a simple phenomenon like the end of a day or the soft glow of an electric bulb.

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