On the 29th October 2018, Snail Mail treated a sold-out Bodega crowd to a whirlwind hour-long set demonstrating precisely why they’re one of the most talked about upcoming alternative bands. They may be snail by name but they’re certainly not snail by nature owing to their loud, euphoric, jazz-tinged alternative rock songs.
Having been fortunate enough to catch the project of up and coming Baltimore singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan at End of the Road Festival at the close of this Heat Wave of a summer, I was sure to catch them as they passed through Nottingham amidst their apparently incessant tour. Ever since it was released on June 9th by Matador records I have had Snail Mail’s debut album ‘Lush’ on repeat. I am still taken aback by the song-writing, the riffs and the juxtaposition between the luscious, transcendent vocals and licks and the shear grit and anger that graces these songs. Suffice to say I was certainly not disappointed by 19-year-old Jordan’s live renditions. Whilst maintaining the flawlessness of the record, she, along with her band, were able to paint these songs in a completely different light. Categorised, in part, by a much gruffer (yet just as brilliant) vocal performance than can be found on the record.
As the Bodega crowd began to swell, they were treated to the support, which came from Hachiku, who, by herself on the stage cut a rather timid figure; however, this was not to her detriment. Hachiku (a.k.a Anika Ostendorf), who had literally run from her show at Rough Trade only an hour before, charmed the crowd with her quaint and haunting yet truly beautiful vocals. The voice cracks only added to what was an intriguing and thoroughly enjoyable performance.
The sold out and brimming Bodega crowd was greeted by the arrival of Lindsey Jordan, trademark red Jaguar in hand, and her band at exactly 9pm. Following an opening jam to loosen themselves up, we were treated to one of Snail Mail’s most beloved tunes: “Heat Wave”. Head-bops and face-wide grins ensued as the crowd were kept on their toes owing the unpredictable (but of course deliberate) tempo changes. If you’ve never listened to them before , Snail Mail’s distinctive sound is categorised by raw anger, a tender yet gritty vocal display and bafflingly intricate lead guitar parts. Jordan’s painfully honest lyrics (see: contemplating ‘what’s worth breathing for’ in “Deep Sea”) compliment the rolling, grunge-filled rhythm guitars perfectly.
Having played the guitar since she was 5 years old and having released her ‘Habit’ EP at the age of 17, it was no surprise to see Lindsey right at home on stage. She was composed, confident and passionate – even springing up and down when songs reached their raging crescendos. By way of introducing “Pristine”, she joked “this next one’s about love … do you have that here in England?”, demonstrating how at ease she felt upon the stage.
Lindsey and her band glided effortlessly between tracks and an early set highlight was the apostrophe addressed to Snail Mail’s fellow mollusc: the mere garden “Slug“ which slithered seamlessly into fan-favourite “Thinning”. Not to take anything away from Snail Mail’s more upbeat songs but, for me, the quieter, more stripped-back songs were the most captivating and were the ones that evoked the most raw emotion. “Deep Sea” had to be song of the night which was played second to last. It was in this submarine dive where Snail Mail’s most honest, introspective lyricism and passion was displayed; moments of soft, tender beauty were coupled with fever pitch vocal grunts and the jazziest of jazz chords. A swelling, underwater release of growing tension. I can’t think of a more beautiful, euphoric cathartic experience.
The set finished with Lindsey’s band quietly leaving the stage, allowing for her to perform two final songs alone. The penultimate song was the final song on her debut album: “Anytime” and it was an astonishing, slow-building rendition, the words ‘they don’t love you, do they?’ resonating through every emotional ember inside of every body in the room. Upon announcing that she only had one song left to play, many members of the crowd decided that ‘Thinning’ was so good that it should be played again, much to the amusement of Lindsey. Humorously obliging, she thinned out the 3 minute 19 second track into 30 seconds, prompting cheers and laughter before starting her actual final song. She closed on a cover of the 1990 track ‘The 2nd Most Beautiful Girl In The World’ by Courtney Love. A beautifully bitter closing performance which featured Lindsey’s cleanest and most precious vocals coupled with angst-filled choruses. Many members of the crowd (myself included) remained stunned in their places as Lindsey left the stage to an eruption of admiration, both waiting (hoping) for an encore that wasn’t coming and simply in disbelief at the beautiful spectacle that they had just witnessed. A whirlwind hour-long set demonstrating precisely why Snail Mail have become one of the most talked about upcoming alternative bands of recent times.