Lindsay Jordan (aka Snail Mail) isn’t subtle on Valentine: the sophomore effort from the alt-rock phenom wears its heart on its sleeve. She’s been dealing with a lot since the release of her breakout album, 2018’s Lush — after skyrocketing into indie fame as a young teenager, she’s had to grapple with surveillance, parasocial attachment and addiction (on top of the normal slings and arrows of love in your early 20s). On Valentine, she lays this all out with characteristic candour and a sonic palette even more developed and lush than her prodigious debut.
The short, sweet album moves through the highs and lows of young love with clarity and passion. There’s plenty of space given to headstrong, punch-drunk infatuation, but envy, heartbreak and confusion worm their way into her tracks as well. Most of all, 22-year-old Jordan seems tired: even in her youth, it’s clear she’s been through enough to last a lifetime. “Most days I just wanna lie down,” she whispers on the clean, quiet c. et. al. And it’s not just because of relationship troubles — with lyrics about “parasitic cameras,” rehab and a job that “keeps [her] moving,” Valentine also speaks of a sordid love affair with fame itself.
Lush was lauded for its fresh take on the indie-rock formula, and in Valentine, Jordan continues to push the envelope with a sound that’s somehow both nostalgic and entirely new. It’s easy to compare her to other female indie-rock frontrunners, but her sound is something entirely different — she plays with genre and production in a way that separates her from contemporaries Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Soccer Mommy. Tracks play with synth-y, pop-y production, the groove of ’70s soul, stripped-back acoustics and shoegaze-y, fuzzed-out choruses to build a singular sound that resists comparison. Tying it all together is her addictively husky voice, slightly gravelly and imperfect in a way that makes you want to memorize the way it shapes its words — even on her most sensitive tracks, it imbues her music with an effortless punk ethos.
Jordan may be tired of fame (and maybe of love), but her exhaustion gives this album a palpably raw edge. It cuts through the immaculate production to evoke the DIY spirit that got her here in the first place — and it packs so much emotion into every whispered verse and screaming chorus that you can’t help but feel her pain.