“Can you cut the drum mic,” Lindsey Jordan, the 18 year old frontwoman of Snail Mail, asked Saturday night at PhilaMOCA. Her voice is raspy and nonchalant. I don’t think ever uttered a sentence that cool when I was 18. Snail Mail is her first band. (Once again, much cooler than my first experiences with music in high school, which involved a lot of West Side Story.) Their debut EP, Habit, was released in July 2016. Since then, Jordan has toured with the likes of Beach Fossils, Priests, Waxahatchee, and Girlpool. The PhilaMOCA show may not be their first show here, but it is the last of their own headlining tour until March. Snail Mail recently signed with Matador, and a full album is expected soon.
Until then, the concise but sincere lyrics and effortlessly coiled riffs of Habit are more than enough to tide her fans over. In its entirety, it feels like rereading a high school diary, only to find that there’s somehow nothing childish or embarrassing about the teenage yearning and gloom that once seemed like the end of the world. She captures the extremes of adolescent emotion with maturity and simplicity, but also self-awareness. She doesn’t try to sound older. In fact in, “Dirt,” her young but weary voice, admits, “Baby when I’m 30 I’ll laugh about how dumb it felt.” She encapsulates the ephemerality and acute pain of high school heartbreak with a kind of youthful honesty that so often falls flat, becomes comical.
The crowd is somehow electric and reverent, listening intently as images of a deep sea cave diver and axolotl are projected behind the band. Jordan deftly explores the confusion and need for self-actualization of youth in “Thinning” with lines like “Hot head and dreamless sleep” and “Asking myself ‘Is this who you are?’ And I don’t know It just feels gross.” Drummer Raymond Brown and bassist Alex Russel leave the stage hastily before the last song, an unreleased and especially candid one, “Anytime.” The slowed down, hushed sadness makes it feel like your being told a three-minute secret. I forget she’s 18 until I see her jump off the stage, now shorter than me in her oversized jeans and t-shirt. She jokes, “The last review I got was pretty mean, so” and turns away laughing with her friends at the merch table, purple and red twinkly lights casting a childish glow on her face. –KEELY MCAVENY