Snail Mail is solely made up of Lindsey Jordan, a young musician with training in classical and jazz who now releases iconic indie rock albums. “Valentine,” her latest release, harkens back to her genre-based roots. Some of her songs even give a faint impression that they could be performed in a smoky jazz club. Jordan’s musical training serves as an explanation for her clear proficiency in instrumentation and arranging music. This particular album’s vocals, as well as the others, are also nothing to be snuffed at. She mixes impeccable control with something gorgeously guttural and natural. There’s a perfect scratch, breath and scream scattered throughout the lines of “Valentine.”
The title track of the album is a tongue-in-cheek smirk at the conventional, short-lived love often shared between valentines. Under the surface, it embodies being a backup plan — erased and forgotten. This song was the first release and early favorite of the album, but the rest of the tracks hold their own against its popularity and acclaim. “Headlock” has the instrumentals of a Keane song, and it pairs surprisingly well with Jordan’s alternative vocals. On even a first listen, the extreme beauty of “Light Blue” is truly shocking. In its entirety, the song is a melodic, airy treat for the ears.
Jordan expands her depth as an artist on this new release, and there’s no telling how evolved her sound will be on the next. She presents as incredibly original and varying in her work, and she pulls each variation off extremely well. “Valentine” touts precision, and it seems Jordan has imbued each chord with deep thought. Every lyric also holds meaning. “Madonna” contains poetry such as, “Body and blood, lover’s curse / Divine intervention was too much work / I don’t need absolution, no, it just hurts.” This mix of wordy complexity and plain emotion feels relatable. First reactions could include everything from nodding along to yelling out the words in unison. As such a young artist, Jordan has more than come into her own with this project. If her musical idols are listening, there is no doubt they are impressed.
The stripped style of “c. et al.” is alluring and honest. Here, Jordan lays bare the pains of heartbreak in a late-night jam sesh by the fire kind of fashion. It’s raw, sincere and personal. These soothing guitar chords are jarringly subverted by the electricity of “Glory,” the next song. The entire album tends to do this often. It lulls you into comfort and snaps you right back out of it — it’s inconsistent, but it simply works. More to the point of lyricism, the phrases “You owe me” and “You own me” sound all too similar in “Glory.” Jordan calls out the fine lines which run through transactional relationships, ensnaring those involved. “Glory” is angry, red-hot and not all that proud, no matter how hard it tries. “Valentine” and “Madonna'' share the same spark. In the end, “Mia” feels like a resignation or maybe even the slow sound of acceptance, albeit reluctant.
Her sound mixes what seems like a variety of eras in a seamless way — what results is an amalgamation of instrumentals you can’t quite put your finger on. It feels entirely new. This is a breath of fresh air in an extremely popular genre like indie rock. It has a real big-city feel — and considering Jordan’s place of residence, it’s the sound of Baltimore.