Album: Snail Mail – Valentine review

by Philip Moss

Valentine no longer finds Lindsey Jordan immersed in first loves, but looking back over them

You have your whole life to write a debut album. And Lush, Lindsey Jordan’s first full length as Snail Mail, was very much a collection of relatable musings pulled together through the songwriter’s teen years.

Lush catapulted Jordan from the college stage to the cover of The New York Times’ art section. It was a rapid rise – one that saw the musician not only zigzagging the US on tour, but the world – leaving her exhausted by the end of its year long cycle (note Valentine highlight, c. et. al.‘Woke up without why or how / Wasted, asleep on the couch… Even with a job that keeps me moving / Most days I just wanna lie down.’) So, where for many artists the pandemic put a frustrating halt to their plans, for Jordan is was a healthy forced stop.

Finding herself back in her childhood bedroom, Jordan, in her own time, began working on Valentine. A record not only coming out three years after her debut, but set three years later – a set of songs that in some ways feels older, wiser, and more reflective – delivered by a voice who is no longer immersed in first loves, but looking back over them. But at the same time still feels just as deeply. The title track has a knowingness, and is as direct as Hemingway, ‘Why do you want to erase me, darling Valentine?’ Jordan erupts over the chorus. Its notable lack of pronouns makes it an anthem for young love regardless of gender.

Co-producer, Brad Cook (Indigo De Souza, Waxahatchee, Hand Habits) has smoothed over the gristly edges of Lush, and puts Valentine in the same league as Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher. Future anthem Forever (Sailing)‘s guitars are used to create hooks rather than merely back her voice – the lo-fi fuzz of the indie band that performed on Lush being replaced by a much more nuanced, crossover sound.

But these changes are in no way a case of papering over any cracks in Jordan’s writing: Headlock is the most melodic piece in her canon to date, while closer, Mia, sees Jordan stripped back to just voice, guitar, piano and atmospheric strings. In Cook, Jordan has seemingly found the perfect foil – and the conscious constructions of Valentine deserve to take Lindsey Jordan beyond the crowds who embraced her first chapter.

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