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Snail Mail's 'Valentine' puts artist's wisdom, vulnerability on full display

Snail Mail's latest album is well-rounded, featuring her growth as an artist through complex instrumentation and powerful subject matter. – Photo by Snail Mail / Twitter

Twenty-two-year-old indie rock soloist Lindsay Jordan, aka Snail Mail, is best known for her lush melodies and intricate instrumentation, making her a favorite on the indie scene.

Her profile expanded greatly in the past two years with her 2018 album, "Lush," cementing her as one of the youngest stars in her genre. Her latest album, "Valentine," illustrates her growth as an artist, giving fans insight into her inspirations and ruminations on love.

The album was written in her childhood home during the pandemic, and this isolated space adds more emotional depth and maturity to her perspective and lyrical content.

"Valentine" eloquently documents her experiences with fame and privacy after "Lush" catapulted her into an indie darling sought after by record labels. On the title track she sings, "Those parasitic cameras, don’t they stop to stare at you?" which illustrates her struggles with paparazzi.

This song builds into a phenomenal and emotionally-charged chorus, starting this album on a powerful note.

As a twenty-something who's figuring out her life and direction, her mistakes are far more publicized. Her private life is more on display now than at any other point in her life, and her adjustment to this lifestyle is shared openly through her songwriting.

In this album, we see the artist flirt with more pop-centered melodies with a refined and purposeful voice. "Headlock" illustrates her synth-driven artistic direction, and her use of more instruments makes her songs both intricate and catchy. Instead of guitar melodies and fingerpicking, her music is accessible without cluttering up her artistic vision.

She sings, "Mr. Death wants my baby now ... Won’t they ever quiet down ... Drinkin’ just to take her mouth/Got you drifting in and out." Her lyrics come in the middle of a drunken bender, and this level of vulnerability feels stark and refreshing.

Many indie artists revel in mystery while using vocal effects and lo-fi guitar licks to get their point across. Snail Mail instead embraces clarity, and this allows her lyrics to feel nuanced and real without diminishing her authenticity.

"Forever (Sailing)" addresses themes of loss and vulnerability with reflection on the impermanence of her relationships and the obsession that comes with unhealthy love.

She sings, "You and I/like a ship, forever sailing ... Whatever you decide/I’ll chase you from the city to the sky/And lose myself for you a thousand times." In losing herself for her partner, she recognizes the fallacy of putting yourself below your loved ones and the problems that arise from falling into self-sacrifice.

"Mia" brings the album to a thematic and emotional close. Melancholy strings embrace Jordan’s voice as she sings about holding on to the past and letting go of a relationship.

She sings, "Isn’t it strange/The way it’s just over?/No late-night calls/You’re not here to walk me to my door." Her regrets are soaked into her lyrics, and the guitar arpeggios filter in and out, reflecting her evolving and introspective mindset. It ends the album on a depressing yet realistic note, bringing the themes to a satisfying conclusion.

Snail Mail’s career follows an upward trajectory due to her album output and the vulnerability present in her songs. Her first two albums had no features on them, allowing her to develop her strengths as a songwriter without compromising for others. "Valentine" speaks on intrinsically human emotions in a refreshing light, and Jordan reflects on love with a wisdom beyond her years.

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