In an interview with NPR, Lindsey Jordan, a musician who performs under the name Snail Mail, spoke about “emphasizing the opposite” in her second solo album Valentine. The record sees Jordan vocally, stylistically, and thematically step into a greater sense of confidence coming from her debut.
Valentine not only details the specifics of young love, but runs the gamut of associated emotions, and finds itself ending in the same place it began. Jordan starts steeped in anger, singing on the title track, “Fuck being remembered, I think I was made for you / So why’d you wanna erase me, darling valentine?” Her voice contends with—but is never overpowered by—the booming synth that backs much of the track. On titular track Valentine, she is holding on, yet in “Mia,” the final song, she admits, “I’ve gotta grow up now / No I can’t keep holding on to you anymore.” Jordan knows that young love cannot last forever, yet she ends both the track and the album with candid vulnerability, singing, “I wish that I could lay down next to you, you” as Mia’s orchestral arrangement fades out of the listener’s consciousness.
After the release of Snail Mail’s first album, Lush, Jordan was dubbed “wise beyond her years.” Critics called her “impressive,” “precocious,” “mature,” and “disillusioned.” Yet this response ultimately underestimated Jordan’s potential. She shouldn’t be pigeonholed into some musical equivalent of the gifted-kid trope; Valentine proves she can carve out a space for herself.
Jordan has found her own means of relatably singing about love in a way that is reminiscent of Liz Phair’s deadpan Divorce Song and Phoebe Bridgers’s mundane Kyoto, but she still evades a direct comparison to either. On Valentine, precociousness is replaced with emotion—not only has Jordan found her voice, she has confidently claimed its power. She does not only sound like a young prodigy, but also like a woman embracing her own perspective. On the upbeat, synth-heavy Ben Franklin, she blatantly chronicles bad sex, lost love, and rehab. Another standout track is the sonically riveting Automate, where Jordan shrouds her heartbreak in metaphor, calling out “Automate me” to her lover. “I’m like your dog,” she says, “Only I know you’ll be sweet if I stay.” This track’s electricity comes from its juxtaposition, the emphasis on opposites that Jordan sought in this album. In one of Valentine’s few moments of near-anthemic electric guitar, Jordan’s voice wavers between being ethereal and grounded; the wispy vocals in the verses compliment the rasp brought out by the chorus. These dichotomies flow in and out of each other, embodying what it means to be automated: to be turned on and off, pulled between worlds of fantasy and reality.
Maybe Valentine is nothing revolutionary, but maybe it doesn’t have to be. For its 31-and-a-half minute run time, Jordan’s conviction forces the listener to find their own revolution between her opposites: the metaphorical and the pedestrian, the electronic and the acoustic, and anger and acceptance. Because at the end of the day, nothing can change the world more than love, in all of its messy and obscene and mundane glory.