REVIEW: “Valentine,” Snail Mail’s latest album, confronts the stages of heartbreak

By Nicole Galioto
Boston University News Service

Three years after her debut album, “Lush,” Lindsey Jordan, aka “Snail Mail,” returned with her second album, “Valentine.” 

Released on Nov. 5, the album encapsulates an array of feelings that arise after love is lost. Whereas “Lush” explored the intensity of first love, “Valentine” contains what feels like more mature songs that are about the recovery process after a relationship and the confusing responses — romanticization, jealousy, anger, and hopelessness — that emerge afterward.

Starting with the album’s title track, the song begins with Jordan’s deep, raspy voice over synthesizers before a guitar-driven rock chorus breaks out. The lyrics alternate between anger and sadness — “Fuck being remembered/I think I was made for you” — and express clinging to hope of one day getting back together. Jordan doesn’t sugarcoat the recovery process, and this pervades the album as a whole.

The second track, “Ben Franklin,” takes a more aggressive angle. The heavy bass lines and deep vocals on this track express the feelings of jealousy that arise when you run into an ex after you have broken up. The lyrics seamlessly flow between these feelings of anger and sadness as Jordan laments “You knew how I’d take it, you brought her to flex,” to hopelessness as she sings, “I miss your attention, I wish I could call.” 

“Headlock,” sounds much like Jordan’s softer guitar tracks on “Lush,” albeit with the heavy use of synthesizers. Her voice is breathy and her vocals soft on the track. It’s the sort of song that you listen to when the sinking feeling of losing someone hits you first thing in the morning, and the desperation in knowing you will probably feel that way for a while. “Can’t go out, I’m tеthered to / Another world where we’re together” describes that inner torment where you feel like you can’t do anything or go anywhere because all you can think about is being with the person you’re not with.

Songs like “Light Blue” and “Forever (Sailing)” present as a before and after the experience of a relationship. Both songs use a metaphor of being at sea — the former equating the elation of being in love to being at sea, the latter treating a failing relationship as a sinking ship. Jordan is not blameless in this situation either, as she sings “Look at what we did.” Like “Light Blue,” “c. et al.” is acoustically driven and focuses on Jordan’s vocals with only a bit of accompanied guitar. Once again, Jordan shows that she is completely dependent on this person, but she does not romanticize that dependence.

“Madonna” and “Glory” see Jordan putting her lover on a pedestal, as often happens during and especially after a relationship. The lyrics are dramatic but are reflective of the absurdity of regarding someone so highly that they seem infallible. They are written in retrospect, and describe the simultaneous adoration and anger she feels toward her lover. The harrowing lyrics of “Madonna” embody the toxicity of regarding someone too highly: “I consecrate my life to kneeling at your altar / My second sin of seven being wanting more.”

The penultimate song “Automate” begins with Jordan’s raspy, slightly squeaky vocals and thumping percussion and sets a scene in which she is at a party trying to forget about the girl she broke up with by drinking too much and kissing another person. The hopelessness emanating through this song is something most people have experienced at some point — the self-destructive behavior when you know it’s actually over.

The album ends with the song, “Mia,” which is about knowing that something has ended despite wanting it not to, which is arguably the first part of recovering from it. Despite the fact of knowing that you’ll never be with this person again, there’s a push and pull that goes on for a couple of weeks, even months after, perhaps best embodied by the lines: “No, I can’t keep holding on to you anymore / Mia, I’m still yours.”

All in all, the strength of this album stems from its relatable lyrics, exploring the contradicting emotions that can follow a breakup. Is the album groundbreaking? Maybe not. It falls into much of the same indie-rock, shoe-gaze-influenced tropes that are heard often. But it is worth a listen if you’ve gone through a heavy heartbreak, knowing that oftentimes the only real closure is seeing it through.

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