Love letters: Snail Mail’s obsessive and raw album “Valentine”

Refreshing and intense, Snail Mail’s “Valentine” is a smooth, emotional journey through heartbreak and desire. (Image courtesy of Matador Records)

After a two-year hiatus, lauded indie rock band Snail Mail, the solo project of guitarist Lindsey Jordan, has returned with “Valentine.” This is her second full-length album since her debut “Lush” in 2018. “Valentine” stays true to the band’s emotive indie rock sound, while flirting with aspects of pop and trip hop to create a lyrically and sonically brilliant album.

“Valentine” explores themes of queerness, love and heartbreak through Jordan’s lyrics. On the title track, Jordan reels from a public love lost. “So why’d you wanna erase me, darling valentine? / You’ll always know where to find me when you change your mind,” Jordan sings in a piercing belt, and then later, tenderly, “Now I can’t hate you / I ruined me for you / Blame me if you need to / But I adore you.” The high-gain guitar and intense drums build intensity in the chorus, only to soften in the outro, taking the listener through an emotionally volatile experience. These conflicting feelings and confessional lyrics are a defining characteristic of “Valentine” and Jordan’s work throughout her career.

Starting the album with a bang, “Ben Franklin” is a groovy and apathetic second track. (Image courtesy of Matador Records)

Each of the tracks on “Valentine” are sonically distinct. “Light Blue,” “Mia” and “c. et al” are softer, acoustic ballads, whereas “Ben Franklin” and “Madonna” take a more intense pop-rock sound, as well as a more apathetic tone. Songs shift between being jaded and sentimental, angry and pathetically sad, yet all fit together like pieces in a puzzle. 

Standout track “Forever (Sailing)” is one of the most pop sounding tracks on the album, borrowing a hook from the 1979 Swedish single “You and I” by Madleen Kane. The song is downtempo and melodic, tracking the obsession and destruction of an unhealthy relationship through Jordan’s rich alto voice. Synths join in the verse as Jordan sings, “Whatever you decide / I’d chase you from the city to the sky / And lose myself for you a thousand times.” Jordan’s voice is what truly shines on this track. It’s cutting on the verses and mellows out in the chorus, and one can’t help but sway along when they hear it. 

Peering into the crowd, Jordan yearns for her lover in the music video for “Valentine.” (Image courtesy of Matador Records)

In “Headlock,” another stellar song from Jordan, she sings of jealousy and desire upon seeing an ex-lover move on. In the first verse, Jordan sings, “When did you start seeing her? / Guess somebody finally tamed you / Never seen you look so sure / Sorrow snuck into our secret place / Drag me with you to Nirvana, baby, take me all the way.” This track features a more traditional indie rock sound, with clean, bright guitars and dark vocals. The song is soft yet intense, providing a cathartic, yet danceable experience for the listener.

After three years without releasing new music, Snail Mail’s comeback is one for the ages. Defeating the notorious “sophomore slump,” Jordan has produced a youthful and expressive work of art.

Listen to “Valentine” here: 



Apple Music: 

Watch the “Valentine” music video here: