Snail Mail Reviews 2018
Lindsey Jordan on A Star Is Born, voting for Oprah, and being compared to Lil Tay
Snail Mail was already having a quick ascension. Last year, when Lindsey Jordan was just 18, she garnered a ton of buzz and acclaim for her reissued 2016 EP Habit, eventually earning her a deal with Matador for her full-length debut. She seemed like one of the indie world’s bright new stars, and we named her one of the best new artists of 2017. Even so: Did anyone realize just how big 2018 was going to be for Jordan?
Nobody could’ve guessed the extent of Snail Mail’s rise, because none of us had heard Lush yet. But when we did, many heard an instant classic. In a year full of stunning debuts from young artists instantly demanding our attention, Lush towered over them all. The buzz of last year was nothing compared to the accolades that greeted Snail Mail this year. It was deserved, one of those moments when the potential and promise of a songwriter’s earliest material is not just realized by a larger work, but expanded upon beyond expectations. Lush has been dominating end-of-year lists so far, and ranked as our #2 album of the year.
It’s one thing to see internet hype, and it’s another to see that manifest on the ground. At this year’s iteration of Iceland Airwaves, it felt like everyone I talked to was hyped to see Snail Mail. At a festival that’s as spread out and frenetic as Airwaves, Snail Mail had become one of the big international names, one of the must-see acts for all the fans and journalists from around the world. For Jordan, it was one more stop in a year of nearly constant touring. This project has already taken her around the world — to places like Reykjavik, to Asia, places many American bands never get to play.
Before her set, Jordan and I caught up about her whirlwind year. But, as has become Stereogum end-of-year and holiday tradition, I also asked her to “review 2018.” Which basically means I got her reactions to the detritus of the year, what albums she liked and Gritty and A Star Is Born, etc., etc. Read our 2018 exit interview with Jordan below.
STEREOGUM: I’d ask how your year has been, but it seems pretty objectively crazy. When we interviewed you earlier in the year, the album had not come out yet, and you were talking about how fast everything happened. Now that it’s out and everyone reacted so well, it’s been a continuation of how quickly Snail Mail has taken off. How’re you feeling at this point in the year? Have you had time to really take it in?
LINDSEY JORDAN: It’s definitely a weird spot to be in now. We haven’t really been home, we’ve been on this insane non-stop tour, basically, for the last year. Everyone’s home life has kind of disintegrated, which is really weird because we’re all pretty young. I’m trying to write the next record, but it’s tough because I prefer to write in solitude.
STEREOGUM: Not in vans or hotels or whatever.
JORDAN: Right. I’ve done a little, there’s a couple songs for the next record. I feel like I haven’t had much time to sit with myself and grow as a a person or understand how much I have grown as a person, because I’ve been in this ever-changing environment. I feel like I’m not thinking about anything. It’s like Survivor. I’m just trying to get my coffee and breakfast, lunch, and dinner and a shower.
STEREOGUM: When you were talking about the debut, you mentioned working on someone else’s deadline for the first time vs. liking to take your time with songs. Are you feeling pressure to follow Lush more quickly?
JORDAN: I won’t let anyone make me do anything. It’s almost every single thing with Snail Mail someone’s like “Here …” and I’m like, “No.” I’ll take help but I won’t take being told what to do. I’ve been writing this one song for about a year and a half and I’m just getting to finishing it now but it’s one of my better pieces and it’s changed so much over that year and a half. For me, I don’t feel like a song is finished until you’ve given it enough time to develop and change.
STEREOGUM: In the meantime, let’s talk about some random 2018 shit. Did you grow up a Justin Timberlake fan?
JORDAN: No, I liked Bieber.
STEREOGUM: Ah, there’s a bit of a generation gap between you and me I guess. Well, you know he duetted with the Prince hologram at the Super Bowl? If you had to duet with a dead person hologram who would it be?
JORDAN: Hm, that is a heavy question.
STEREOGUM: It’s not meant to be! But I guess it involves dead people.
JORDAN: Probably Lou Reed. I love him. He’s probably my favorite songwriter of all time. Everything by the Velvet Underground and him has lasted in my life and had new meanings for me as I’ve gotten older. I go through lots of phases but I’m always a big fan of his.
STEREOGUM: I wonder if his hologram would be any nicer than he was.
JORDAN: I would hope.
STEREOGUM: Who do you think bit Beyoncé?
JORDAN: Bit her?!
STEREOGUM: You didn’t hear that story? Tiffany Haddish gave an interview where she told a story about being at a party and someone supposedly bit Beyoncé in the face. There were rumors it was Lena Dunham for a while, stuff like that.
JORDAN: Whoa. Who bit Beyoncé … who was at that party? Who would even be willing? I would be willing to believe it was a rando. I don’t want to think it was a jealous celeb. Every party like that I’ve been around, there’s more randoms than celebs.
STEREOGUM: But nobody’s tried to bite you at one of these parties right?
JORDAN: I’m not celeb enough.
STEREOGUM: Did you see A Star Is Born?
STEREOGUM: So you were a fan.
JORDAN: Oh, yes. [Shows A Star Is Born background on her phone.]
STEREOGUM: I always think it’s funny to see the music world depicted in movies and TV. When he flies her out on a private jet? I was like, I don’t think Jason Isbell’s putting people on private jets.
JORDAN: [Laughs] That’s who I thought he was supposed to be like! Jason Isbell!
STEREOGUM: My coworker was saying she thought he was supposed to be more of an Eddie Vedder type.
JORDAN: I could see Zac Brown Band.
STEREOGUM: Do you think he’s putting people on jets though?
JORDAN: I don’t know. I used to work at Merriweather Post Pavilion and there were rumors this one time that Taylor Swift landed a plane in the lot when Diplo was playing.
STEREOGUM: What is your favorite pop culture couple of the year?
JORDAN: There’s some I don’t like.
STEREOGUM: Tell me those instead then.
JORDAN: No! [Laughs] I’m not going to say Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson — I like them both because they seemed troubled and they got each other. But I also like her “next” thing. That’s cool. I want to think of a gay one.
STEREOGUM: Well, there was the speculation about Janelle Monáe and Tessa Thompson. Which would be really cool. Most of the couples are … not great. Like Elon Musk and Grimes.
JORDAN: Maybe that’s my favorite, some good memes came out of that. I was going to say Timothée Chalamet and Lily Rose Depp.
STEREOGUM: Did you hear Weezer’s cover of “Africa”?
JORDAN: OK, I kept seeing that on Twitter but I just thought they had a song called “Africa.” The original is definitely a meme thing, but also a banger. I don’t like the chorus.
JORDAN: I think the verse is really good and then the chorus is …
STEREOGUM: Like you find it melodically annoying?
JORDAN: Yeah, melodically. I really like the intro and the verse and then the chorus ruins it for me.
STEREOGUM: That’s the best part! This is a deeply contrarian take on “Africa.” I want to go back to Ariana. Do you listen to a lot of pop music?
JORDAN: I love pop music, I love the record. I haven’t listened to “Thank U, Next.” I have it in my Spotify search but I literally haven’t had good wifi since it came out.
STEREOGUM: What other 2018 releases were you a fan of?
JORDAN: JPEGMAFIA. Tirzah’s Devotion is my favorite record of the year. It’s just so minimal. The producer Mica Levi, she’s fucking amazing. I just saw it live a couple weeks ago in Madrid. It was really minimal live too but powerful. Her lyrics are really gorgeous, and her voice is really gorgeous. Musically it’s everything I want.
STEREOGUM: A lot of stuff that’s pretty different than the music you make.
JORDAN: I get kinda bored with indie rock. I love it but, I don’t know, I don’t seek it out that much. I love the Soccer Mommy record. We used to play house shows together, and we’ve known each other forever, and our records came out kinda close. That record does a lot for me. I feel like we’re in similar places in our lives, and her lyrics just really affect me. What else? Stella Donnelly. I’ve seen her live on a few tours, her guitar playing and voice are amazing. She’s like, new Jeff Buckley. That Adrianne Lenker album. Room 25, Noname. The new Mitski. I really like those new 1975 singles.
STEREOGUM: Ah, yeah, everyone’s divisive faves. There was plenty of debate about that band at Stereogum. I like that Japanese Breakfast called “Love It If We Made It” our generation’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”
JORDAN: It’s great! I listen to it every day. The new Iceage was cool.
STEREOGUM: I’m a sucker for a band having a deep Nick Cave phase so I liked that a lot too.
JORDAN: I think every Iceage album is great. That band is sick.
STEREOGUM: Would you vote for Oprah in 2020?
JORDAN: I would, but I have my reservations about voting for a TV star.
STEREOGUM: … Understandably.
JORDAN: I’ve argued with people about this on a number of occasions, on Oprah’s side, because she’s a super qualified and educated woman. It would be cool if our first president who was a woman was also a woman of color. And also if she was dating Gayle. I know we’re not sure … I think that would be cool. Based on what I know about Oprah and if her campaign was good, I’d vote for her. She seems to have her ideas in the right place.
STEREOGUM: Are you a Lil Tay fan?
JORDAN: Honestly, I think I could be if people stopped comparing me to her!
STEREOGUM: Wait, what? People compare you to her?
JORDAN: Oh my God. It’s everything I post: “Lil Tay plays guitar!” People say I look like her. Isn’t she like, eight years old? Pitchfork — like, a major music outlet — will post something about me and someone will comment “Didn’t know Lil Tay made music.” But, honestly, I think she’s funny. If I wasn’t getting compared to her all the time. Someone edited her onto the cover of Lush. There’s a bunch of them, it’s really annoying.
STEREOGUM: In a year where you’ve gotten all these accolades, is it weird to deal with all this internet nonsense, too?
JORDAN: Some of it I like. If I go through my tagged there’s the craziest shit. This person did a “Snail Mail makeup tutorial,” I don’t even wear that much makeup. Some of it kinda makes my day because I’m so bored. But the Lil Tay memes can stop. And me shitting on Gritty, people got so mad.
STEREOGUM: What do you think of him?
JORDAN: I just think he’s lame. It looks like a muppet. I don’t think he deserves controversy. My sister showed me a really cute picture of him as a baby, it almost made me feel bad. I don’t know, I played hockey for so long.
STEREOGUM: Oh, so you have a stake in this.
JORDAN: Yeah. Plus, I don’t fuck with the Flyers. So why would I like this guy?
STEREOGUM: So, this was earlier in the year, the false missile warning in Hawaii, because we all get to be anxious about nuclear weapons again. I saw all this stuff on Twitter, people who like, kept golfing or got a second helping at the breakfast buffet rather than seek shelter. It was kinda funny. What do you think you would do if you got a missile warning?
JORDAN: I’d lay on the ground. If I was at a buffet, I’d eat pancakes. Pancakes and ice cream are my two favorite foods that I don’t eat because I gotta keep my body travel-ready. In the morning, if there’s pancakes at the hotel breakfast I can’t eat them because it makes me tired and not ready to rock. Whenever I picture myself as an old woman, I picture myself indulging in pancakes and making music by myself for no one. If I was gonna die, I’d eat a ton of pancakes at the breakfast buffet. But, let’s say we’re not at the breakfast buffet. I’d probably just lay down and accept death.