Snail Mail: Valentine

Lindsey Jordan’s second album as Snail Mail is for anyone who’s been bloodied by Cupid’s arrow. Offered up by a self-professed but seemingly unlucky romantic, Valentine documents love in all stages, but mostly in disrepair. Its palette extends beyond pinks and reds: There’s the envious green of seeing an old love with someone new, the consuming black of bottoming out, and, occasionally, the clear blue of weightless bliss, however fleeting. Throughout, Jordan adheres to the credo that she first announced as a rhetorical question—“Is there any better feeling than coming clean?”—on Lush, the searing debut that turned her from a suburban teenager with wicked guitar chops into a beloved indie frontwoman.

Jordan, now 22, says she fielded 15 different label offers while she was still in high school. After signing with Matador and releasing Lush in 2018, she became a public figure and a magnet for parasocial attachment, drawing hordes of fans who saw themselves in her queerness and keen sensitivity. Amid this whirlpool of attention, Jordan found that her personal boundaries were too permeable; the overexposure caused enough harm to land her in rehab last year, an experience she mentions offhandedly once on Valentine. Afterwards, she handed her social media accounts to an assistant and hired a media trainer to help her deflect prying journalists. “Those parasitic cameras, don’t they stop to stare at you?” she sings over a foreboding synth in Valentine’s opening bars, pointing to the parts of success that give her pause.

But now that she has patched the holes from which her personal life seeped out into the public, her music, more than ever, functions as the release valve. The title track and lead single sounds like the inevitable eruption: Jordan blows up the chorus with an impassioned wail (“Why’d you wanna erase me, darling valentine?”) and surging guitar, her loudness proof that she will not be erased, damn it. Valentine retains the exquisite vulnerability that made Snail Mail’s first record so compelling, but Jordan’s sound is more forceful, her touchstones more varied, her writing more toned. On Lush, she explored the expressive but limited possibilities of a three-piece rock band; on Valentine, along with co-producer Brad Cook (Indigo De Souza, Waxahatchee), she flirts with pop—sharpening her hooks, reaching for the synths and strings. Where parts of Lush revealed themselves slowly, saving their secrets for intent listening, Valentine is more immediate, grabbing your gaze and refusing to let go for 32 straight minutes.

Updated: November 4, 2021 — 11:00 am