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Snail Mail Turns Heartache into Triumph on 'Valentine'

By Isabel Corp

Snail Mail
Photo by Tina Tyrell

Lindsey Jordan has never been one to hide in the shadows. After being thrust into the spotlight in 2018 with her confessional debut album Lush at just seventeen years old, the Snail Mail frontwoman rapidly ascended to indie-darling status. And she’s only continuing to reach new heights this year with her sophomore album, Valentine.

Valentine is an album of self-reflection. Throughout its ten confessional tracks, Jordan spills her guts through stream-of-consciousness musings on heartbreak, addiction, ego fatigue, and growing up. The album truly shines when Jordan expresses a maternal urge to protect her younger self. “This time, I wanted to avoid the naïve perspective,” she confessed in an interview with The Cut. “I didn’t mean to sound naïve on Lush.”

Another extremely positive step forward on this record is Jordan’s unashamed use of female pronouns in her love songs. On the title track — a booming, anthemic opener with wheezing sci-fi synth lines reminiscent of The Cars and Gary Numan, with smothering feedback that harks back to My Bloody Valentine — Jordan paints a vivid picture of the way queer love is often omitted from history with lyrics like “Fuck being remembered/Why’d you wanna erase me/Darling valentine.” The accompanying music video depicts Jordan as an 18th century chambermaid falling in love with a married aristocratic woman.

On “Ben Franklin,” Jordan channels jaded numbness in the aftermath of a breakup. “Got money, don’t care about sex/Sucker for the pain, ah honey,” she sneers in her lower register over a heavy bassline groove. “Headlock” is one of the gentler cuts where Jordan reflects on losing herself in a relationship. Over cool weeping synths, her warbling voice cracks deliver an intensely emotional punch with mournful lines like “Thought I’d see her when I died/Filled the bath up with warm water/Nothing on the other side.”

“Forever (Sailing)” samples the ‘70s disco oddity “You And I” by Madleen Kane, evoking the style of syrupy ‘90s dreampop outfits like Lush and Mazzy Star. On the gentle acoustic folk ballad “Light Blue,” Jordan tentatively sings about falling in love as if she were drowning, offering to go to the ends of the Earth just to be in her lover’s presence. “I wanna wake up early every day/Just to be awake/In the same world as you” she breathes over subdued strings.

On “Madonna'' and “Glory,” Jordan expresses her feelings of conflict that result from her putting her lover on a pedestal equal to that of a religious iconoclast. Jordan has described “Glory” and “Madonna” as sister songs where she reflects on viewing her lover as a god “but also want[ing] to scream in their face,” a theme that is eerily similar to fan and idol worship with lyrics like “You owe me/You own me.” The latter is the most reminiscent of Jordan’s previous efforts, Lush and Habits, with twangy candy-coated guitars that echo ‘90s indie giants Pavement, Husker Du, the Pixies, and Mission of Burma. Jordan makes a concession for a lilty acoustic ballad on the closing track, “Mia.”

From the rough-around-the edges grooves where Jordan flaunts her bombastic exterior to the mellower cuts that reveal her squishy heart underneath, this album’s grandiose oeuvre is at least ten steps up the ladder for Jordan. Whatever direction she decides to go in next, there will be no stopping her continued streak of tugging on all her listeners' collective heartstrings.

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