and Hotline TNT
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Lindsey Jordan is on the brink of something huge, and she’s only just graduated high school. Her voice rises and falls with electricity throughout Lush, her debut album as Snail Mail, spinning with bold excitement and new beginnings at every turn.
“Is there any better feeling than coming clean?” sings the eighteen-year-old guitarist and songwriter halfway through the sprawling anthem that is “Pristine,” the album’s first single. You can’t help but agree with her. It’s a hook that immediately sticks in your head—and a question she seems to be grappling with throughout the record’s 10-songs of crystalline guitar pop.
Throughout Lush, Jordan’s clear and powerful voice, acute sense of pacing, and razor-sharp writing cut through the chaos and messiness of growing up: the passing trends, the awkward house parties, the sick-to-your-stomach crushes and the heart wrenching breakups. Jordan’s most masterful skill is in crafting tension, working with muted melodrama that builds and never quite breaks, stretching out over moody rockers and soft-burning hooks, making for visceral slow-releases that stick under the skin.
Lush feels at times like an emotional rollercoaster, only fitting for Jordan’s explosive, dynamic personality. Growing up in Baltimore suburb Ellicot City, Jordan began her classical guitar training at age five, and a decade later wrote her first audacious songs as Snail Mail. Around that time, Jordan started frequenting local shows in Baltimore, where she formed close friendships within the local scene, the impetus for her to form a band. By the time she was sixteen, she had already released her debut EP, Habit, on local punk label Sister Polygon Records.
In the time that’s elapsed since Habit, Jordan has graduated high school, toured the country, opened for the likes of Girlpool and Waxahatchee as well as selling out her own headline shows, and participated in a round-table discussion for the New York Times about women in punk—giving her time to reflect and refine her songwriting process by using tempered pacings and alternate tunings to create a jawdropping debut both thoughtful and cathartic. Recorded with producer Jake Aron and engineer Johnny Schenke, with contributions from touring bandmates drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass as well, Lush sounds cinematic, yet still perfectly homemade.
The songs on Lush often come close to the five-minute mark, making them long enough to get lost in. The album’s more gauzy and meditative songs play out like ideal end-of-the-night soundtracks, the kind that might score a 3am conversation or a long drive home, from the finger-picking of “Speaking Terms” to the subtle, sweeping harmonies and French horn on “Deep Sea.” It only makes sense that Jordan wrote these songs late at night during a time when she was obsessively reading Eileen Myles and listening to a lot of slowcore and folk songwriters.
“Heat Wave” is one of the album’s most devastating moments, a song that wallows in a crumbling mid-summer relationship. “I broke it off, called out of my shift, and just cried in my bathtub and wrote this song,” Jordan recalls. “I was just so desperate to just get the way I was feeling out onto paper so that I could just have it and be done with it. It was almost kind of painful. It was like puking onto paper, and crying, ‘This girl hurt my feelings!’ Towards the end of writing the record, I became better at dealing with my emotions.”
Jordan’s personal crown jewel of the album, “Let’s Find an Out,” puts her childhood classical guitar training on display. It’s a road song of sorts, a nod to feeling young and disoriented on her first ever tour: “I’d gotten knocked around a lot by the process. I was scared. It’s sort of this love song about another person who is going through the same thing.” “You’re always coming back a little older / but it looks alright on you,” she belts over her intricate playing, on one of the album’s most pensive and gorgeous moments. Lucky for us all, she doesn’t sound scared anymore.
The budding grunge four-piece Momma has always relied on songwriters Etta Friedman (21) and Allegra Weingarten’s (22) symbiotic writing style and creative intuition. “I remember the title, Two of Me, originally came from this creative day Etta and I were having together,” Weingarten recalls. “Etta said something like, ‘It’s crazy —being alone with you is like being alone with myself.’ It references that feeling and encapsulates how we write together: a form of communication, where we’ll constantly switch off who is playing lead and who is playing rhythm guitar in the same song.”
Self-taught guitarists who grew up outside of Los Angeles, Friedman and Weingarten met by fate in high school and eventually began writing songs together. The pair’s close friendship provided an open channel to create and experiment from a place of trust and joint experience. Inspired by songwriters like Kim Deal, Liz Phair, and Elliott Smith, the two developed a knack for dynamic song structure and gripping lyrics fused by a dulcet pop sensibility. Much like the two fish that depict Friedman and Weingarten’s birth sign, Pisces, the duo are locked in an infinite loop, constantly feeding off of one another’s musical ideas.
Although the pair now live far from home and each other while finishing college in New York and New Orleans, Friedman and Weingarten have continued to write the same way they always have. For the past two years, during breaks between semesters, the two would assemble DIY west coast tours, open LA dates for bands like Gang of Four and Ian Sweet, and workshop new songs together at home. Decorated with bright interlocking guitars, confident harmonies, and vivid storytelling, the band’s debut album Interloper and recent Apollo 7” capture Friedman and Weingarten hitting a stride at the end of their adolescence, while establishing a sound and vision that the band continues to expand upon. Friedman and Weingarten began building a more focused and detailed world in the material they started to write for their second full length. Over the course of several writing sessions —often months apart —the two wrote one song after another, slowly piecing together the story of an alternate reality they called “The Bug House.”
Two of Me is an ambitious concept album made up of fictional vignettes dealing with morality, youth, and punishment, that Friedman and Weingarten have populated with tragic heroes from their imagination. “The Bug House represents this sort of underground purgatory or hell that people are sent to as punishment,” Weingarten explains. “Two of Me’s songs are about coming to terms with the side of you within yourself that is maybe capable of darker things.” Momma’s second full length unfolds like a small town drama, where characters like video stringers and young lovers experience poetic justice in carnivalesque settings, detailed through Friedman and Weingarten’s illustrative lyrics. “It’s cool to have this world to go to that just belongs to Allegra and I, that we can both work on and revisit while we’re living in separate places,” Friedman notes. “Having a larger concept that’s not rooted in reality made it a lot easier to work on together from a far. The album is rooted in a lot of real feelings and experiences, but we wanted the stories to be set in a fictional world.”
Two of Me was recorded in Los Angeles with producer/engineer Aron Kobayashi Ritch, who bolstered Friedman and Weingarten’s desire to experiment with deeper and more distorted sounds, along with drummer Zach Capitti Fenton and bass player Sebastian Jones, who made up the rhythm section for most of the album’s tracks. Two Of Me’s opener “Bug House” sets the stage for the record, with its expressive guitar tones and brooding mood. The album’s more abrasive moments like “Derby,” which alludes to the anxiety of a Jockey in a fixed horse race, are balanced by melodic ballads like “Double Dare,” which follows a romantic pair pining for a world away from their violent hometown. “Biohazard” features some of the album’s most grotesque diction (“Crushing cartilage. Binding on a binge. Fucker is a freak, baiting this barbarian”) sang in unison to tell the story of a troubled individual struggling with Dissociative Identity Disorder, and the evil/remorse that co-exist within him. Friedman and Weingarten each step into a lonely spotlight on their respective solo performances “Ready Runner” and “Not a Runner,” which feature tender instrumentation and introspective lyrics.
Two of Me’s climactic closer “Habitat” doesn’t offer resolution for the album’s protagonists, but instead uses the moment to take in the complex beauty of life and the landscape, before releasing a final deafening exhale. Despite Friedman and Weingarten’s many similarities, their creative compatibility on Two of Me is fueled by their appreciation for each other’s differences. The songwriters’ personal tastes and intuitions are valued and explored by one another equally, allowing the pair to make a record that feels both familiar and intriguing. Like a yin & yang symbol, Friedman and Weingarten understand that nothing is made up solely of light or darkness, and confronting each part of yourself is the first step to seeing the whole picture.
Hotline TNT is the most 90s band of the 21st century so far. It is a pop music group of no certain allegiance or denomination. The songs are for all ages, but many fans are forced to watch the band behind their parents' backs. Their records are all self-released but easy to find; many people who come across the 7"s immediately turn them into weapons.
Sat Aug 27 2022 8:00 PM
(Doors 7:00 PM)