Photo Credit: Tina Tyrell
Snail Mail is Lindsay Jordan, the latest in a string of solo musicians using as their music moniker what sounds like a band name (and not necessarily a particularly strong or memorable band name, at that). The 22-year-old Ellicott City, Maryland native Jordan might also seem like just another product of the recent explosion of quiet-but-deeply-emotional young female singer-songwriters. However, on her second full-length album Valentine, Jordan proves to be considerably more than that.
True to her stage name, Valentine comes more than three years after Jordan’s debut and only previous album Lush, a surprisingly long gap between new releases, particularly for a younger artist (and especially for a period in which calamitous restrictions on touring and live performances due to COVID-19 prompted most musicians to focus on studio work). However, Valentine is not only very much worth the wait but also expands upon the strengths which Jordan showed in that first album.
Valentine opens with the title cut, which also happens to be arguably the album’s best song. Introducing its atmospheric, mid-tempo approach, the track then explodes about a minute in with a suddenly (but still consistent) elevation in the chorus (which may remind listeners of Hum’s 1995 radio hit “Stars” or a few other songs from that era). With this track alone, Jordan illustrates her approach to be more refreshingly direct than that of many of her young female singer-songwriter contemporaries, and the difference is noticeable.
The second cut “Ben Franklin” gets a bit funkier and is punctuated by a fluttery, ’80s-style chorus (although from the lyrics at least, we have no idea what the song has to do with Benjamin Franklin). On the subject of songs seemingly named after random people, “Madonna” uses a ’90s-style sound which definitely owes less to our Ms. Ciccone than to Liz Phair. The influence of a few other ’90s female rockers, such as Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly, is then apparent on “Glory.” However, Jordan does step back to the previous decade on “Forever (Sailing)”, another uptempo treat that utilizes the ’80s “big” synth approach along with a more overall modern sound for the whole track.
On the softer side, Jordan also does several acoustic guitar-based songs, including “Light Blue” and the closing track “Mia.” Both are solid and heartfelt, but then introduce “Yesterday”-style strings which tend to overwhelm the songs just a bit (Jordan also sings closing “Mia” with sort of a kittenish whisper which comes off as a bit out-of-character). By contrast, the album’s third acoustic song, the ambiguously-titled “c.et.al” makes better use of not just the Beatles influence but the Rolling Stones as well, with a perfect bluesy hook.
The song lyrically examines depression and the need to internalize in general, but on another level might pertain to some of the new, unprecedented emotions that many have experienced during the pandemic. “Even with have a job that keeps me moving // Most days I just wanna lie down.” Indeed, it’s been surmised that many people have found themselves less motivated on the whole after being forced to take too long a pause from their careers and normal lives. Still, even though three years is a fairly average length between full studio albums, Valentine definitely leaves us hoping that we won’t have to wait quite as long for more new music from Lindsay Jordan aka Snail Mail.