Credit: Tina Tyrell/Lindsey Jordan
by Andrew Bosma Ledger Line Music

Snail Mail | Valentine

December 20, 2021

Valentine already finds Lindsey Jordan reinventing Snail Mail’s sound and lyrical texture, to astonishing ends.

After a quick rise to indie rock prominence following 2018 debut Lush, Lindsey Jordan returns with her band Snail Mail’s follow-up, Valentine, an album constructed around stories of infatuation at every stage of a relationship. On this newest record, Jordan opts for a full band, contrasting her previous record’s sparse production with hints of a previous era of lo-fi indie pop. The emotional intelligence of the tracks is also nicely fleshed out, an achievement for any artist, but especially notable for one who is only 22. The combination of these two elements works as a tidy (re-)introduction to an artist who has, on only her second record, already been reborn, ready here to advance her particular sonic landscape.

It goes without saying that hearing Lindsey Jordan sing pretty much anything would, at the very least, make for interesting listening. She has a rich voice, with a texture that musicians often spend years trying to develop. It’s a quality that lends an immediate edge to her music over other artists working in the same rough genre, and one that sets her ceiling considerably higher. In the past, this was indeed the centerpiece to her sound, with a lone, muted guitar around to accompany. And this was a good sound, one that established her songwriter cred and helped develop a fan base, but on Valentine the addition of synths and booming instrumental accompaniment feels like a revelation, paired as they are with her intense vocal winding over them. 

But it’s not just her sonic canvas that has expanded on this LP, but also her skill as a lyricist. Jordan has experienced noted hardship since the last record, ranging from writer’s block during an intense touring schedule to a stint in rehab (referenced on “Ben Franklin”), and it’s not an uncommon desire to want to recreate yourself after such intense personal experiences. In many ways, the relationships that she sings about on Valentine are articulating precisely that need for forward momentum, whether it be moving on from a lover who has iced her out on “Valentine” or “Forever (Sailing),” or one who loves deeply but also hurts deeply on “Glory.” It’s no accident, then, that Snail Mail’s drastic instrumental changes come tethered to narratives of needing to take drastic relationships, both facets seeking out new shapes and horizons. 

More than anything, on Valentine Lindsey Jordan wants you to know that things are different on a second record. It’s certainly a bold move for an artist who found accolades on her first outing, one that could easily alienate an already loyal fanbase if miscalculated. But the payoff is significant, rising far above the early promise of Lush. Given success, reinvention is essential to any artist’s endurance, that much we know. What’s surprising and thrilling about Valentine is just how up to that challenge Jordan already is, offering no indication here that she’ll have trouble repeating the performance next time out.

Published as part of Album Roundup — November 2021 | Part 2.