Lindsey Jordan sounds like a young woman possessed. Possessed with purpose, direction, and a more rounded out sound than what came through the speakers of the bedroom pop classic debut album, Lush. Snail Mail, which is also comprised of bassist Alex Bass and drummer Ray Brown, sounds like a band pushing the boundaries of the “bedroom pop” label, and breaking down the damn door in the same process. Jordan has been put in the same vein as other artists like Soccer Mommy, Phoebe Bridgers, with even some comparisons to Fiona Apple, yet Snail Mail has found a way to break free of these similarities and created a lush (no pun intended) and rounded out sound on Valentine.
The Ellicott City, Maryland based artist is ready to explode out of the indie rock scene, and has already collected several high album ratings for Valentine from other music publications (and rightfully so). From the initial chords on the title track as Jordan croons, “Let’s go be alone / Where no one can see us, honey / Careful in that room / Those parasitic cameras, don’t they stop to stare at you,” it’s almost as if Snail Mail is making the conscious choice to leave that “room” that trapped her in the bedroom pop label, and leave that scene far behind as Jordan establishes herself as one of the better artists in the indie pop realm. As Jordan explodes into the chorus of, “So why’d you wanna erase me, darling valentine? / You always know where to find me when you change your mind,” it becomes crystal clear that she has the songwriting chops to elevate her game at just the right time.
Other early songs like the dark-brooding “Ben Franklin” find Jordan tinkering with a vast landscape of sounds found on Valentine. Jordan seems to be completely aware of the newfound pressure of delivering on her sophomore record as she explains, “Part two feels like spring / I guess the shit just makes you boring / Got money, I don’t care about sex / You knew I would take it / You brought her to flex.” She rocks with a brilliant swagger and confidence, and even explores her higher vocal register as the track unfolds.
”Headlock” sounds the closest to the sound that Snail Mail established on their debut, and yet the improved lyrics and overall song compositions showcase an artist with a clear vision for her music. The darker lyrical material of, “Mister Death wants my baby now / Felt the crowd was wrong to claim you / Won’t they ever quiet down? / Someone’s daughter adorned in flames / Drag me with you to nirvana, baby, take me all the way,” tackles mortality and the overall looseness of how quickly life can be taken away from us. What Snail Mail does particularly well on songs like these is to not allow the darker-tinged lyrics to get too bogged down and Jordan continues to have a steady hand towards guiding the listener out of these tough places.
One of my favorite songs in the set comes in the form of the ballad “Light Blue,” as Jordan delivers some of her most tender moments orchestrated over an acoustic guitar and a backing string arrangement. It captures plenty of that “it” factor that made Jordan such a highly sought out artist, even as she was finishing high school. The first half of the album closes out with “Forever (Sailing)” that bounces along with artistic professionalism and poise not usually seen at this age.
The back half opens with “Madonna,” that features a great sounding bass line that eventually bleeds into the electric guitar riff that Jordan explores her vocals over. Much like a train getting momentum going down the tracks, the song builds up strongly and takes some interesting twists and turns. The up-tempo drumbeat is paired with the second verse of, “I consecrate my life to kneeling at your altar / My second sin of seven being wanting more / Could that have been the smell of roses, backseat lover? / Praying you’ll fill my empty cup / Cursing myself for even getting dressed up,” and uses some philosophical references to understand some of the most difficult things in the world to comprehend.
Other late standouts, like “Glory,” showcase an artist growing into their own skin and being big enough to explore some of the vastness of the unknown with lyrics such as, “You want it all / Superstar / Jesus died just to save you / Walk me down Hollywood Boulevard / Get me high in the hotel room,” sound like an early Fiona Apple mixed with the brashness of a Courtney Love to get her point across that Snail Mail is meant to be in the conversation of breakthrough artists living up to the hype. The vulnerable and incredibly personal “Automate” shows the struggles Jordan had with alcohol, as she explains, “It’s like I’m living and I’m past her / And it’s thirteen days after / But it still feels like I’m cheating / One more drink ’til I can lie beside you / Though all at once is better.” The way Jordan invites her listeners into her headspace is incredibly brave, and yet she takes it all in stride as she shows us all she’s just as human as the rest of us.
The album closes out with the slow dripping “Mia,” as Jordan sings about wanting to find love and a person who gives her just as much back as she gives in return. The sprawling ballad features a great verse of, “Fixing your hair on the way to his place off Broadway at night / If you’re waking up slow / Together we’ll talk it through the night / But it feels so fucking light,” reminded me of the incredible storytelling found on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, and yet Snail Mail feels like the next wave of young female artists taking us on this remarkable journey into exploring what makes music so great in the first place. I’m not sure where she will take her music next, but you better believe that we’ll all be here to see what Lindsey Jordan cooks up in the very near future. It’s a very exciting time to be a music writer with so much incredibly passionate music coming out on a regular basis, and Snail Mail is a big part of this revolution.