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With debut album 'Lush,' Snail Mail's Lindsey Jordan prepares for rock stardom from her Ellicott City bedroom

Amid humorous non-sequiturs, promotional ephemera and photographs of ducks, late last month Lindsey Jordan’s Twitter feed veered toward the earnest.

“Thanks 4 coming to our shows in Europe every day i feel even more confused surprised n alive,” Jordan wrote.

About a week later, seated in the backyard garden of a Hampden coffee shop, Jordan — the Ellicott City singer-songwriter behind the indie-rock band Snail Mail — said the reception she received on the recent overseas tour left her astounded.

“I didn’t know people listened to us in Europe,” Jordan said. “I very rarely will get sappy on the internet, but I couldn’t believe that they were selling out and stuff. It was just weird, but really cool.”

Jordan will likely have to get used to such revelations, as her excellent debut album, “Lush,” arrives via Matador Records on Friday, just days before she turns 19. After a barebones 2016 EP called “Habit” introduced Snail Mail as an inspired act cut from a quality ’90s alternative-rock cloth, “Lush” solidifies Jordan’s reputation as a meticulous writer and performer willing to expand her sound while never straying far from her gifts as a pop-minded songwriter and classically trained guitarist.

While the comparatively lo-fi “Habit” came without expectations, “Lush” was built from marathon studio sessions sometimes pushing her to the verge of tears.

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard and so emotionally on anything in my entire life,” Jordan said. “Every single space and breath and sound and tone is just me being a control freak.”

Only a few years ago, Jordan was asserting herself in a different way — as a hard-checking left wing on the Mount Hebron High School ice hockey team. (Naturally, the music video for new song “Heat Wave” shows Jordan earning a presumably fake bloody nose on the ice.) Her initial post-graduation plans included attending St. Joseph’s College in New York, but the buzz built by “Habit” convinced Jordan to pursue music full-time.

She still moved to New York last year, but with the purpose of finishing “Lush” with producer Jake Aron. The honeymoon was nice — fruitful long days in the studio were punctuated by evening walks for ice cream — but wore off fast. After a few months of learning the city’s impractical realities — grocery shopping without a car, overpriced rent — she returned to her parents’ house in Ellicott City.

“I realized once I got out on my own, there was all this stuff that I wasn’t ready to do,” Jordan said. “I know I don’t want to live with my parents forever, but it’s really relaxing.”

Jordan wrote almost all of “Lush” in her childhood bedroom, a space that allowed her to tap into the emotions and inventive guitar playing that sparked her career. She acknowledged that the “girl writes emotional songs in her bedroom” narrative can be used to infantilize female musicians, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s where she does her best work.

“It does get construed in a way that’s annoying, but at the same time, it’s really special,” Jordan said. “That’s where a lot of people do their writing. I think the girl-in-her-bedroom thing has created some of the best music that we have in the world.”

On Friday, “Lush” will make its case for inclusion in the canon. Clocking in at 10 songs in less than 40 minutes, the album opens with a brief, sparse introduction of quiet guitar picking and Jordan’s longing vocals. It then kicks into the full-band “Pristine,” one of her catchiest constructions yet, paired with sarcastic lyrics of how draining love and devotion can be. The soft-to-loud transition is a subtle nod to Snail Mail’s leaving its low-fidelity reputation behind, she said.

“That was kind of Jake’s idea,” Jordan said. “He was like, ‘It would be cool to start with something humble and just go into something really big.’ ”

Aron, who has worked with Solange and Grizzly Bear, quickly realized the task at hand: Grow Snail Mail’s sound while maintaining the group’s pillars, Jordan’s clever songwriting and crafty guitar parts. (Drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass, who tour with Jordan, provide the record’s rhythm section.)

There are new additions, such as more layered harmonies and a solemn French horn on “Deep Sea,” but it was essential to Jordan that the new material kept her straightforward intentions — if the songs were stripped down to just guitar and vocals, they’d still be effective.

“I was really struck by how forward she was, and how well she was able to put into words what she wanted,” Aron said on the phone from his studio in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Even though she had never made a full record like that before, she seemed really self-groomed to achieve what she wanted.”

Aside from her talents, Jordan’s outward confidence has led to glowing profiles in major publications. Oftentimes, her story is framed in three ways, she said: her gender, her sexual orientation and her age. After a sip of cold-brew coffee, Jordan was eager to unpack her feelings about it all.

Though she identifies as a “politically charged” feminist, Jordan said answering tired questions — the mere mention of “What’s it like being a woman in rock?” is met with an eye-roll — often distracts from the work itself.

“Having it be this kind of pat on the back for something I didn’t do really bums me out,” she said.

The other narratives are more complicated. Jordan said she never meant the fact that she’s gay to be an overt part of Snail Mail, but she was also proud to be writing love songs about women. Being honest was the only logical option, she said.

Her sexuality doesn’t define Snail Mail, Jordan said, but it’s rewarding to have fans approach her with stories of how her openness comforted and inspired them.

And while the constant mention of her age “really bothered” her at first, Jordan now wears it like a badge of honor — her accomplishments so far have largely come from trusting her instincts, and she won’t shrink from that fact.

“Now that I have to be this bad b---- CEO all of the time, I don’t hate acknowledging it because there’s so many things that I’ve had to figure out on my own,” she said. “I feel like I’m really proud of the progress that I’ve made.”

Now, Jordan waits to see where “Lush” takes her next. The hype has been building for months, thanks to singles like “Heat Wave” and “Let’s Find an Out.” Regardless of the critical reception, one review has already made a lasting impact — her father’s. They rarely discuss music and their tastes don’t overlap, Jordan said, so she was amazed to come home recently and find him listening to “Lush” on repeat.

“We listened to it again together, and it was sweet,” she said. “He had like, tears. We really bonded over it.”

Jordan’s journey continues with a summer U.S. headlining tour that includes a stop at Baltimore’s Parkway Theatre on July 12, followed by European festival dates and more touring still to be announced. While the routine of mundane van rides and off-kilter schedules wears many artists down, Jordan said it’s not lost on her that her bedroom songs are affording her to see the world. She refuses to take it for granted.

“We’re very fortunate in that the places that we’re going are incredible, and not everyone gets that opportunity,” Jordan said. “So I always remind myself that I’m doing what I like, even when it feels like I’m not.”


If you go

Snail Mail performs at 7 p.m. July 12 at the Parkway Theatre, 5 W. North Ave. Bonny Doom will also perform. Tickets are $15-$18 on ticketfly.com.


wesley.case@baltsun.com

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