If the most recent albums from Lorde, Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey and more are any indication, being a famous artist in 2021 is no fun. While not the subject of her long-awaited comeback single, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan clearly is no exception to this phenomenon; with the release of the title-track off her upcoming sophomore album, the 22 year old (who released her acclaimed debut LP ‘Lush’ at just 18 years old) revealed that she’s spent much of the period between ‘Lush’ and now in a rehab facility; which was where her new record first began to take shape.
Despite this potentially life-altering experience, however, Jordan’s newest single – her first new original material in over three years – largely takes off from where she left things; ‘Valentine’ is an unapologetically queer, love-crushed anthem that channels the best works of Sleater-Kinney and Liz Phair, and captures the highly-dramatized emotions of being a teenager; feeling like everything is either the best or worst thing to happen to anyone ever. Beginning as a slowed down, orchestral ballad that expresses complete devotion for an ex-girlfriend, Jordan then transitions into a rip-roaring chorus reminiscent of Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Brutal’, but with a 90s indie-rock flare. It’s two lines (“So why’d you want to erase me, darling valentine? / You’ll always know where to find me when you change your mind”) expertly captures the contrasting, but often simultaneously felt, emotions of feeling bitterly angry towards an ex, while practically begging for their return at the same time. The heady highs and lows of ‘Valentine’ instantly capture the euphoria of her greatest hit ‘Pristine’.
It would be unfair though to write ‘Valentine’ off as little more than a do-over of old tricks; ‘Valentine’ is a glorious leap of artistry far beyond what one would expect in the space of just a few years. I can think of no other artist whose voice has become so much richer and stronger, so quickly, than Jordan’s here. Her vocal improvements (and bare in mind, her voice was perfectly good on ‘Lush’) is so apparent that it’s the first thing that jumps out at you when listening to ‘Valentine’. Where as on previous albums, Jordan’s voice would begin to break as she reached to achieve power-house vocals to match the rip-roaring arrangements, now she achieves this with ease; allowing the emotional catharsis of her music to become disarmingly apparent.
Everything about Snail Mail’s new lead single is bigger, grander and more ambitious than any of her previous work and it instantly sky-rockets up to highest echelons of her admittedly short discography. In a year where so many of the 2010s most promising breakout stars delivered relatively disappointing new releases, it’s refreshing to see one of the most promising indie prodigies of recent time not just meet expectations, but exceed them, on a glorious introduction to a new era.