Matador · November 5, 2021
Snail Mail is the musical project of singer-songwriter and guitarist Lindsey Jordan, who gained notoriety in 2018 upon the release of her debut album Lush, released a week before Jordan’s nineteenth birthday. Lush became a favorite among younger indie pop fans due to swelling instrumentals and passionate vocal performances on fan favorites like “Pristine” and “Heat Wave.” The ensuing three years allowed Jordan to tour on the back of Lush’s success, as well as record the ten songs that make up her sophomore project, Valentine.
Similar to its predecessor, Valentine doesn’t make much of an attempt to reinvent the indie pop genre; many tracks focus heavily on catchy hooks and contrast quietly strained verses with dramatic choruses, a formula that has been perfected for decades across the indie scene. However, that’s not to say there’s no evolution to Jordan’s sound on her new record. Valentine leans more heavily on pop sounds, substituting the guitar-based atmosphere of Lush with more synths and softer vocals. The production works well with Jordan’s lyrics, which are often wistful ballads depicting strained relationships.
Take the lead single and title track “Valentine,” for example, where Jordan pleads for a partner to return despite not receiving any interest from them. Structurally, the song is fairly ordinary, with an eerie synth being just about the only instrument backing Jordan’s opening verses, only for the full band to abruptly enter during the chorus, where Jordan asks “Why’d you want to erase me, darling valentine?” Throughout the album, Jordan brings songs to life with her lyrics and performances, keeping the 30-minute album riveting and fresh. On “Madonna,” another pleasant-sounding pop single, Jordan writes “I consecrate my life to kneeling at your altar / My second sin of seven being wanting more / Could that have been the smell of roses, backseat lover?” Though the lyrical content of the record, which could be vaguely described as “heartbreak,” is nothing revolutionary, Jordan’s self-deprecating vulnerability comes across as earnest and relatable.
The track “Forever (Sailing)” is perhaps the most sonically unique song on Valentine, where Jordan’s distant chorus combined with the slow, synth-heavy instrumental, creates a dreamlike atmosphere as she repeatedly croons, “You and I, like a ship forever sailing.” Placed as the fifth song out of ten within the tracklist, this diversion towards dream pop is a welcome centerpiece. The record culminates in fitting fashion with the final two tracks, “Automate” and “Mia,” with the former describing a drunk Jordan bitterly reflecting on her ex’s new partner and the latter being a minimal, bleak ballad longing for her lover in the days following a breakup.
Though each of the 10 tracks focuses roughly on the same topic, the album is only 30 minutes long, which prevents the listener from becoming fatigued by the subject matter. Valentine is also one of the most consistent pop records of the year, with a couple standout tracks but not a single dud. Jordan’s presence as a singer, highlighted by her cynical lyrics and versatile vocal performances, are more than enough to make her second album as Snail Mail even more intriguing than her first.