Snail Mail: Valentine

Valentine, the second full-length studio album from singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan’s Snail Mail project, finds the young musician pondering romantic relationships and the emotional rollercoaster that inevitably comes with finding and losing love. Jordan’s dreamy, melancholic vocal delivery is well suited to her subject matter, as she injects lyrical themes such as obsession, substance abuse, religious symbolism, and death.

“Let’s go be alone, where no one can see us, honey,” Jordan sings on the title track that opens the record. The song starts slow, meandering loosely with synth washes and gentle guitar before it kicks in, full force, with Jordan angrily accusing her lover of trying to erase her. The song is a polarizing opener, as it wastes next to no time before the singer bares her broken heart in all its tarnished glory, forcing the listener to feel every ounce of her pain. “Ben Franklin” finds Jordan and her band on solid ground. The mid-tempo number, whose lyrics deal with the pain of lost love and remembrances of Jordan’s stint in rehab, feels downright poppy after the emotional beating delivered during the album’s outset.

The acoustic ballad “Light Blue” arrives just before the end of side A. During the chorus, a string section swells as Jordan’s delicate vocals reach the highest of heights as she proclaims, “Nothing’s gonna stop me now.” The moment, although short at just over two and a half minutes, is a standout and works as a nice first half breather. “Forever (Sailing)” finds Jordan more or less covering Swedish pop singer Madleen Kane’s 1979 hit “You and I”. Snail Mail’s version alters Kane’s version slightly, however, changing the title and some of the lyrics and altering a sample of the original song by slowing it down.

Valentine’s third single, “Madonna”, kicks off the record’s second half in fine form. As the title suggests, the lyrics to this one overflow with religious references. As the tempo see-saws back and forth from a slow burner to a speedy pop song every time we jump from the verse to the chorus, Jordan delivers stinging lines to an ex, like, “Body and blood, I’ll atone, get to it now, or we can fight on the phone.” “Glory” is a straight up indie rock moment complete with a decent guitar solo one minute in. Jordan rarely alters her vocal delivery from one song to the next, maintaining a consistently confident cry that, incredibly, never feels out of place regardless of the genre its placed in.

“Mia” is Valentine’s closer and, with its sweetly plucked acoustic guitar, melancholic strings, and gentle piano, feels theatrical in its ending. “Isn’t it strange, the way it’s just over?” Jordan sings tenderly. All told, Snail Mail’s Valentine manages to engender a variety of feelings regarding the ups and downs of love and relationships, and the skillful production from song to song allows for Jordan and her band to take on a variety of styles. The common thread throughout, of course, is Lindsey Jordan’s lyrics and vocals. Valentine is a solid sophomore full-length that makes one look forward to hearing whatever Snail Mail does next.

Rating: 7.5/10

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