by Hannah Ryan
Diminutive though Lindsey Jordan – better known as Snail Mail – may be, her stage presence at Thekla in Bristol this week was anything but. Bathed in a melancholy blue light, she appeared, alongside her band, with little fanfare and introduced herself in the briefest of terms before diving straight into the odd little guitar riff for which her ‘Heat Wave’ has garnered immense acclaim.
After the release of Lush – her raw, teenaged debut – in the throes of this year’s summer, Jordan has perhaps become best known for the emotional vulnerability of her lyricism and the curious blend of intimacy and tragedy that courses through her music. Such vulnerability, such open wounds, were clearly on display at Thekla as Jordan delivered almost every line of ‘Heat Wave’ with a mix of venom, passion, and sombreness. Both sincerity and bitterness came in waves on Wednesday evening, as Jordan exclaimed that she ‘hopes whoever it is holds their breath’ around a former lover, before lamenting that she knew she once did the same – just as ‘Heat Wave’ reached the closest thing it has to a chorus.
Having begun the show with arguably her most popular – and most accessible for those not of the gloomy indie rock persuasion – Jordan then began to lead us further along in her journey through obsessive first love to the festering heartbreak left in the wake of its end. In between toying with the idea of finally abandoning an uncertain love – ‘I’m sorry babe that’s not where I’m at/I shouldn’t be here when you get back’ – and emptying her devastation out through her guttural vocal delivery, Jordan also toyed a little with her audience. After asking if any of us had seen A Star is Born, she launched into a rendition of ‘Shallow’ so husky that even Bradley Cooper’s bedraggled Jackson Maine would struggle to hold his own against her. Jordan’s version, however, was all too short-lived and, while her wrestles with agony and desire on ‘Golden Dream’ and ‘Speaking Terms’ resonated deeply, I occasionally found myself craving a studio recording of her ‘Shallow’.
Snail Mail’s set ended with Jordan alone on stage, as she cast a rather lonely – yet equally self-assured – shadow in the dimming lights. Though the entirety of Lush may be described as an album made of heartache, it is on ‘Anytime’ that the extent of Jordan’s suffering is truly conveyed. With just a few solemn chords on a guitar to accompany her embittered cries, Jordan repeatedly wonders if the subject of ‘Anytime’ ever loved her before coming to the conclusion that still, she’ll be there – anytime. This, ultimately, is the thesis of Snail Mail’s debut; when you fall in this kind of all-consuming, adolescent love, you’ll put yourself through hell for just a sliver of another person’s affections.
Jordan’s ability to create an atmosphere filled with despair, sensuality, and poignancy all at once is not to be underestimated – at nineteen, as Snail Mail, she is capable of creating a show that evokes a range of emotions so broad that even her older contemporaries would struggle to compete. If this is only the beginning, then the upcoming era of Snail Mail is surely to be revered.