New This Week: Benjamin Franklin by Snail Mail

By Tim Smith

Snail Mail is easily one of my favorite bands, and what I have loved so much about them is their simplicity. On Habit and Lush (Snail Mail’s debut EP and album, respectively), the group perfected their crisp, yet jangly, garage rock sound. It’s what got me into them: crunchy loud guitar (usually in some open tuning), clean bass and drums to back it up, and Jordan’s piercing and personal lyrics. Their new track, Benjamin Franklin, however, is a complete departure from their trademark sound. The song starts with bouncy drums and a poppy baseline, and we don’t even hear Jordan’s guitar until two minutes in. For the first time in a Snail Mail track, synths take the place of lead guitar to create the melody. There’s something distinctively different about Jordan’s vocals too, as she employs a lower, more breathy and raspy sound. I really like the new sound, but I think it’s for the betterment of her vocal health. If you watch her live shows just before covid, Jordan’s voice seems depleted – it seems like her past vocal style just wasn’t sustainable.

When I first heard this track, I was a little confused. It wasn’t what I expected, but as I listen to it more the song is growing on me. I miss their old sound, but I feel like this is a necessary change for them. Snail Mail had gone three years without releasing new music, and I always worried that if they made a third album without changing their sound that it would stifle their progression. I think its stupid to expect an artist to never push their own norms – and its clear that Snail Mail has had plenty of personal growth these past three years. Lindsey Jordan admits on this song (and later in an interview) that she checked herself into rehab in 2020 and Ray Brown, the drummer, started doing more solo work. Snail Mail’s new sound is indicative of the necessary maturation the group went through over the last three years.

Check out Benjamin Franklin. See what you think. Don’t let me tell you what to do! Snail Mail’s album, Valentine, will be out November 5th on Matador Records

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