Album of the Day: Snail Mail, “Habit”

Even in her most desperate moments, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan sounds calm and collected. Her voice may raise a few octaves when delivering macabre lyrics about depression and death, but it never cracks or wavers. Which is not to say that Habit is one-note—it’s not. It’s just carefully composed.

Jordan’s plaintive, deliberate storytelling style is the perfect complement to her band’s mellowed-out music. Most of the songs on Habit are built on measured drumming and soft, hypnotic riffs. Jordan is a self-deprecating songwriter, often evoking the decay and sediment of the natural world to get at her reflexive feelings; she likens herself to a gastropod (“Slug”) and begs to be covered in flies (“Static Buzz”). On “Dirt,” she waxes philosophical, looking to the future in an attempt to overcome her present woes. “Baby, when I’m 30, I’ll laugh about how dumb it felt,” she sings, “And, oh God, it’s not funny, but I know we can laugh it out.” It’s a song about getting perspective and letting go gracefully, and Jordan articulates this sentiment with a dexterity that’s rare for a lyricist who’s not yet 18.

Throughout Habit, Jordan excels at self-reflection, interrogating herself before turning to others. On “Stick,” the album’s most minimal—and, arguably, most compelling—track, the percussion drops out, the guitars get sparse, and Jordan sings: “Do you dream about the people that wrong you? Do you see those faces again and again?/ And what holy thing has come to possess you? Or does it all just blend together in your head?” It’s a fitting conclusion to an album that establishes Jordan as both a diarist and a storyteller; Habit is the voice of a young woman in full control of her own nascent—and ascendant—narrative.

Tess Duncan

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