More about: Snail-Mail
Lindsey Jordan had just turned seventeen when the critically-acclaimed Habits EP (2016) put her on the map; by the time of her debut, Lush (2018), Rolling Stone was already calling her an 'indie-rock prodigy'. It was Jordan's vulnerable songwriting, signature vocal delivery and shoegaze style attracted many to her solo project, Snail Mail. Although her newest offering, Valentine, largely abandons its roots, Jordan brings moments of sophistication and passion to a record shaped by heartbreak.
Opener 'Valentine' is arguably the best cut from the album: it sets the emotional and stylistic tone of the record with panache. "Those parastic cameras; don't they stop to stare at you?" Jordan almost smirks, as she longs to be alone with her lover amongst creepy, high-strung synths. This gives way to a riotous chorus, as she screams: "So why'd you wanna erase me?". In stark contrast to the apathetic, cloudy sounds of Lush, 'Valentine' redefines Snail Mail as slightly more conventional, but exciting and fresh.
Jordan goes out of her way to add quirk to many of the songs on the tracklist, which is a refreshing attitude to listen to. 'Automate' soundtracks the aftermath of the breakup with some delicious melody lines and a striking drumline. The themes of control that Jordan weaves paints a subtly devastating portrait of a mutually destructive relationship: "I'm like your dog, I'm like your dog/Only I know you'll be sweet if I stay", she whines.
Other tracks on the album let Jordan's writing shine with gorgeous production: 'Headlock' pairs its wistful lyrics with layers consisting of a nasal guitar drone, offset by little piano flourishes and some good old reverb. 'Light Blue' strays into more gentle territory, as warm chords and a crisp, finger-plucked acoustic accompany Jordan's voice, whose cracks give the song some great personality.
Occasionally, there are misfires where either Jordan's writing is let down by the basic instrumentation, or Jordan's vocals aren't up to par with the theatricality of the songs. 'Forever (Sailing)' features some really passionate lyricism ("So much destruction/Look at what we did/That was so real/And you don't just forget"). Unfortunately, Jordan's voice doesn't match this energy whatsoever, which would have really elevated the song. Similarly, the darker narrative in 'Glory' is let down by the derivative music it's set to.
The album ends on a conflicted note; 'Mia' is a sentimental ode to Jordan's ex-girlfriend, where she tells her: "Mia, don't cry. I love you forever/But I gotta grow up now". The conclusion that 'Mia' seems to draw is one of eternal, painful longing; on the one hand, this could be read as sweet acceptance of Jordan's lifelong devotion, but on the other, it's a frustrating finale to an album that's spent ten tracks repeating this narrative over and over.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of moments on Valentine where Jordan's talent shines through. Jordan is able to articulate her emotions really well at times, and she's dedicated to pushing her sound forward and making sure you remember her words. Valentine isn't quite the record I hoped it would be, but it at least demonstrates that for now, Jordan's sticking around for a long time.
Valentine arrives 5 November via Matador.
Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.
More about: Snail-Mail