Album Review: Valentine // Snail Mail

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Marylander Lindsey Jordan and her alter-ego Snail Mail continues to blaze a trail for post-millennial Stateside singer-songwriters. Jordan’s latest offering Valentine sees no let-up in her uncanny knack for creating achingly beautiful nuggets of Americana-tinged pop, seemingly out of thin air.

Despite presumably discounting a February release its title warranted, 22-year-old Lindsey Jordan’s second de-facto solo record oozes love, loss, defiance, and yearning throughout its ten songs. Valentine also feels decidedly more grown-up than its predecessor, the defiant cover art betraying an “all dressed up and no place to go” feel. Admittedly, the singer does boast a few more miles on the clock with the resulting additional emotional scars, not to mention a spell in rehab.

In typical female troubadour style, Lindsey Jordan has managed to harness the turmoil within her private life and turn it into supremely accomplished Snail Mail pop songs, clearly echoing a well-trodden path of excellence including Aimee Mann and Elliott Smith.

Released on Matador Records Valentine was jointly produced last winter alongside Brad Cook who’s other studio credits include Bon Iver. Eponymous opener and 1980s arena throwback has been done a thousand times before yet still sounds fresh as a daisy. One can practically smell the hairspray crackling under the hot stage lights, a thousand cigarette lighters suddenly extinguished as the chorus kicks in like a rollercoaster suddenly descending its first chute.

Jordan’s aforementioned spell convalescing is arguably best encapsulated in the break-up number ‘Ben Franklin’, our heroine seemingly taking stock and trying to make sense of her whirlwind rise to fame. Slowly but surely, fragments of new material took shape in her frazzled mind as she slowly but surely recuperated. Still, sometimes it all got a bit too much, the tender barroom waltz ‘C et al’ testament to wanting to keep the world at bay for a while. Who can blame her?

Jordan’s breathless vulnerability, a key feature of this heartfelt long-player, really comes to the fore in the searingly elegiac ‘Headlock’, a softly focused slice of shimmering pop where you can almost hear the glass shattering against the wall. The strings in exquisite closer ‘Mia’ have a similarly spellbinding effect as they do in ‘The Long and Winding Road’, our leading lady baring her tortured soul one final time as she utters the poignant words to her former love “I wish that I could lay down next to you”. One wonders whether the swish of the bows on the strings feel like daggers plunging into Lindsey’s crumbling heart.

Break-up albums can often bring out the best in songwriters and the ultra cathartic Valentine proves no exception to this rule, it’s a rather fine record.

Words by Michael Price

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