SNAIL MAIL – ” Valentine “

Posted: December 19, 2018 in MUSIC
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All it takes is one song. In the case of Snail Mail, that song was called “Thinning,” and it was released on the band’s debut EP “Habit”, which Lindsey Jordan wrote when she was still in high school. “Thinning” had a riff that sounded like it was underwater, and Jordan’s muscly rasp cut through the surface as she sang about isolation and loneliness in a way that felt distinctly teenaged and still somehow universal. The song gave you That Feeling, the kind that is hard to describe but you’ll know it when you hear it. Simple and anthemic, it’s the type of song that makes you think, “Man, I wish I wrote that.”

It must have been scary for Jordan to write the follow-up to Habit after a dizzying rise that landed her on Matador Records in her senior year. Replicating That Feeling is near-impossible, but Jordan is more than capable of doing it. Snail Mail’s debut full-length, Lush, has songs that are as massive and crowd-pleasing as “Thinning” (“Full Control,” “Pristine,” “Heat Wave”) but there are moments of repose on this album, too, that are just as lovely (“Let’s Find An Out,” “Deep Sea”). It would have been easy for Jordan to tunnel into self-doubt, to question every decision and churn out a work that felt muddled or rushed. Instead, she made a supremely confident, maddeningly catchy guitar rock album equipped to compete with the classics.

Snail Mail’s 2018 debut albumLush” had the power to ease the pain of a breakup six months before it even happened, and would still be around to patch up the wounds six months after. It became an outlier in an incredibly strong scene of American indie rock stars that came to the forefront in the late 2010s, including Phoebe Bridgers, Soccer Mommy, and Lucy Dacus. Lindsey Jordan’s poetic post-breakup examination perfectly portrayed how absorbing love can be, reaching a wide audience for whom the songs resonated as they began to assign their own meaning to Jordan’s scriptures of fading romance. Inevitably, a relentless tour cycle started, with years spent on the road while quickly transitioning out of her teenage years.

“The tour really fucked me up,” Jordan says. “I was putting pressure on myself and I had nothing to write about, either. It was big for me to wait [on writing a new album] until I had things to write about. If you heard my ‘tour album’ it wouldn’t be anything anyone asked for. Everyone would be like, ‘How am I supposed to relate to this?’” For all musicians who tour relentlessly there are consequences for traveling the world, which you have to accept. “You miss birthday parties, weddings, funerals—they’re hard. It’s a conscious trade off. I choose to be away for a lot of the time, which changes how you sit in people’s lives.”

Jordan had to learn to grow up quickly. Initially wanting to be at every single party or industry event and to make friends with all the other bands around her, this couldn’t be sustained and she soon came to realize the unique skill set that being a touring musician demands. “You learn how to do everything, like how to treat people on a stage,” she explains. she told fans that her second album would be even more depressing than the last. That album,Valentine”, takes the deepest blows found on Lush and presses hard on the wounds. The title track and lead single show a clear sonic evolution as murmurs of synth stalk in the shadows and Jordan switches from a hushed tone to an almost blood-curdling scream of, “So why’d you want to erase me, darling Valentine?”  Lindsey Jordan gives a lot of herself to these songs, each one relative to her own experience. Here we get to see her in a new, sometimes much darker light, such as on “Ben Franklin.” “Expanding as a writer, for me, meant exploring more avenues of feeling. I realized being as genuine as possible meant portraying myself in an ugly way. ‘Sometimes I hate her for not being you’ is a nasty line. I was like, ‘I think this portrays me as a piece of shit, but it’s true!’”

Meanwhile, the equally bittersweet “Forever (Sailing)” propels love to its most cosmic, overwhelming proportions—it’s about feeling so much for someone that it’s not just all-consuming, but fucking terrifying. The crystalline convergence of starry-eyed tones gives way to a sudden realization: “So much destruction, look at what we did.” Through mutually assured destruction comes the decimation of anything else in orbit. The stakes feel higher than ever, the well is at its deepest.

Jordan has made a career out of sharing snapshots from some of life’s most excruciating moments, some of her own biggest losses and periods of her greatest personal turmoil. When sharing so much, it can be hard for an artist to define their own boundaries as to how much of their world the listener gets to see. “I feel like I gave away a lot in the lyrics, and explaining further in some cases gives away more than I’m willing to. I toed the line so closely with every single song. I’m still trying to stay within the boundaries I set.”  Yet this line in the sand between privacy and tell-all is arguably what makes Snail Mail such an enthralling storyteller—each song feels like an invitation. In being so in touch with herself, Jordan’s musings on how completely shattering relationships can be becomes a tool for us to navigate our own experiences. At the end of “Lush”, Jordan was left feeling a former partner’s absence on “Anytime.” On Valentine closer “Mia” we’re in that moment again, yet this time we’re in the room with the tears falling. We’ve delved even further into Snail Mail’s world of love, longing, and fracturing heartbreak.

One of the most anticipated follow-ups in indie-rock, “Valentine” was written and produced by Lindsey Jordan and co-produced by Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee). Written in 2019-2020 the album is filled with romance, heartbreak, blood, sweat and tears.

‘Valentine’ by Snail Mail, out November 5th on Matador Records.

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