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Live Review: Snail Mail's 'Pristine' earns its title

28 March 2018 | 7:04 am | Kyle Fensom

Snail Mail sets herself up to release one of 2018's most anticipated debuts by sharing 'Pristine', the most perfect indie rock song you'll hear this year.

Hype has been quietly swirling around SNAIL MAIL, the solo project of 18-year-old Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter LINDSAY JORDAN since her 2016 debut EP, Habit. Now, she looks set to deliver one of 2018’s most anticipated debuts in the form of Lush, her first full-length which is due to arrive June 8th via Matador Records/Remote Control. ‘Pristine’, the lead single from that record, glistens with lo-fi charm as Jordan offers her musings on young love.

Rolling, distorted guitar chords unfurl over the course of the ‘Pristine’, with Jordan finding new routes in and out of the chords, using rhythmic variations, slight shifts in tempo and different voicings to patiently build the track to a turbulent plateau. Meanwhile, she imbues her brooding chords with subtle riffs and fills that demonstrate her dexterity with the instrument, while her bandmates fill out a tight rhythm section that constantly plays with the track’s dynamics to build a sense of ebbing tension. “And I know myself / And I’ll never love anyone else,” she sings on the track’s punchy chorus, her raspy voice almost on the verge of yelling but full of personality. Here, the band pauses for a dramatic moment to match Jordan’s statement, before picking the instrumental back up again as Jordan reiterates: “I won’t love anyone else.

In youth, every emotion is rendered and blown up in heightened, often conflicting detail as we cast ourselves as the central character in some profound melodrama. Looking back on the extremities of adolescent heartbreak, unrequited love and suburban escapism usually brings a certain amount of retrospective embarrassment that inoculates us from the very real emotions felt at the time. But on ‘Pristine’, Snail Mail seems to straddle both of these worlds, authentically documenting the messiness of young love whilst also writing about the topic with a prudent, nuanced maturity that belies her 18 years of age.

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On ‘Pristine’, Snail Mail canvases the full range of emotions felt in the heartbreak of young love: She’s openly vulnerable when she asks “Don’t you like me for me?”; she’s resentful when she challenges to “Be honest with me / Who do you change for?” She’s nostalgic when she sings “And if you do find someone better / I’ll still see you in everything,” and she’s resigned when she admits that “If it’s not supposed to be / Then I’ll just let it be.” It’s this level of songwriting that has her poised to release one of the year’s most pristine indie rock records with Lush.

IMAGE: Audrey Melton