Review originally published 11.11.21 on Full Time Aesthetic.
If there’s one line from Snail Mail’s latest release, Valentine, to sum up the ethos of the record, it would be “Nothing stays as good as how it starts” from “Forever (Sailing).” In Snail Mail’s sophomore LP, Valentine, singer Lindsey Jordan holds back zero punches to the heart with an album that details the waves of relationship grief through candid lyrics and a sonic dynamism. The record opens with the chill-inducing title track, whose chorus proclaims “So why’d you wanna erase me, darling valentine? You’ll always know where to find me when you change your mind.” It’s safe to assume that Jordan herself is the narrator here, cementing her permanence in spite of her ex’s best efforts to erase her. This strained romantic tension sets the tone for the rest of the record, which weaves through ten songs in just 31 minutes and 36 seconds. And while there is absolutely no shortage of feelings to be sorted through by Lindsey Jordan, she communicates with vast efficiency and a poignancy tinged with sadness and rage.
Whereas Valentine is centered around the bitter end of a relationship, her 2018 debut, Lush, explored the other side of the romance coin that Valentine has minted. Lush is predicated on a love that Jordan is trying to develop but finds to be a struggle. Both albums are candidly honest and beautifully original—what’s glaringly obvious through both works is that Lindsey Jordan is masterful at dissecting her own feelings and communicating her heart’s tribulations in a straightforward manner. Valentine picks up right where Lush left off and there is not a single beat that has been skipped.
When it comes to the themes of grief that are present throughout Valentine, anger, resentment, acceptance, denial are all to be found throughout the ten songs that comprise the record. Jordan cuts right in with the title track, saturated with feelings of resentment and denial, as she shouts “So why’d you wanna erase me, darling valentine? You’ll always know where to find me when you change your mind.” The title track, “Valentine,” is the album’s heaviest song and lays a strong foundation for the rest of the record. While the chorus is the loudest, its tempo oscillates between somber and angry, with Jordan proclaiming “I ruined me for you” at the end of the song before repeating how much she adores her ex. The outro is crucial to understanding the dynamic of the relationship Jordan had with her ex and how far she is from moving on.
Snail Mail performing in 2017 (photo by Edwina Hay)
While Valentine starts out on the angry and heavier side, the songs to follow cycle through stages of depression, reflection, and finally acceptance with a softer tempo. Notably, the album’s fifth song, “Forever (Sailing),” is a soft dreamy track that features funky guitars and catchy synth. In the lyrics, Lindsey reflects back on her time with her ex and what they went through together. “So much destruction/Look at what we did/That was so real/And you don’t just forget.” In the slightly more upbeat track of “Glory,” Jordan dives into the more complicated dynamics of love with the brilliant juxtaposition of “you own me/you owe me” throughout the song, which has a bit of a 90’s alt bend.
There are a number of symbolic elements present throughout Valentine, including the color light blue as well as references to Madonna paintings and reaching a state of nirvana, all which work to make the album as cohesive as possible. Perhaps most striking is the figure of Mia, who is mentioned a few times throughout Valentine, first in “c. et. al” and later the title of the tenth and final song of the record where she serves as the title of the record’s final track. While Mia may not be the name of an actual person, she symbolizes the love that Jordan had for her person. “Mia, don’t cry/I love you forever/But I’ve gotta grow up now/No, I can’t keep holding on to you anymore/Mia, I’m still yours.”
Valentine’s cover features Jordan in a cupid-esque outfit wearing a beautiful pink blazer with a corsage on her left with a frilly white and black pinstripe blouse and a black bow tied around the neckline. She is positioned against a light red background and has a serious and confident expression, looking straight into the camera with her mouth slightly open. The cover is extremely fitting for the album, effectively communicating along with the title that this is an album about heartbreak. Snail Mail has yet again proven herself to be an essential and resonant voice in indie music with a penchant for penning her feelings and experiences in a manner that is captivating, well-thought out, and quite catchy.
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Valentine is out now on Matador Records and is available on all streaming platforms.