“Trial and error,” Lindsey Jordan, aka Snail Mail, says through laughter when asked how she landed on the revelations weaving together her sophomore album, Valentine. “Lush, it’s like red flags,” she says of her first album. “It’s clear what I’m about to go through. Lush is yearning for this insane concept of love and loyalty. Then Valentine‘s like, ‘No. Look what happens!’ It’s my journey through all of these realizations and my path to self-awareness.”
That path involved processing romantic relationships through songwriting, spending time in rehab, and finding a genuine desire to heal, regardless of how long it took. It’s all there in Valentine, revealed through sheer lyrics, delivered with a snarl, and transmitted through a magnetizing indie-rock sound that somehow still pays allegiance to no specific genre.
Valentine is painfully honest, much like its predecessor, but, as she shares during our video call, shrouded in a grey hoodie with her New York City apartment as a backdrop, this time the lovers are no longer idols of worship. All the pedestals have been grounded.
Jordan touches on that sentiment when asked about the line “You want it all, superstar, Jesus died just to save you” in “Glory” and whether or not she thinks a lot about saviors and being saved in relationships. “‘Glory’ and ‘Madonna’ are like sisters,” she says. “They’re borrowing from the same general anger for anybody who puts themselves in a role of importance in another person’s world. You can’t be in love and be looking up. Being like, ‘Jesus died just to save you,’ this person is putting themselves in this God complex role where the entire world stops, everything is about them.
“I’m pointing out the flaws within myself to want to have that dynamic with somebody I’m in love with too. I’m talking about this love situation, but I’m talking about myself.” She stops, before adding, “And being saved. I don’t know. That scares me to even think about!”
The eponymous opening track begins with the lyrics, “Let’s go be alone, where no one can see us, honey,” over slowly swelling synths, but being visible, at least emotionally, happens to be Jordan’s strong suit. She explains, however, that many of the album’s tracks, like “Ben Franklin,” were an attempt to push against her propensity for vulnerability. “I was doing just terribly and I wanted to continue to have close people in my life, and I also wanted to be able to live with myself. I just take such a long time to heal,” she reflects. “That song was written past the point of patience with myself. I was so done being candid, always being the most sensitive person and I did want to channel this disconnected self that is able to exist with a cushion between me and the subject of my pain.”
That lack of cushion is what drew listeners to Jordan since she released Lush at just 17. That draw to her music could also be explained by her ability to channel emotions into songs, and intentionally incite them from listeners. For instance, making sure the third verse of a song has “the zinger at the very end because you’re already invested in the song and by that point, with those syllables and that melody for some reason, that just hurts more there than it does in the second verse.” She’s also implemented that emotional play in the sequencing of Valentine’s tracks. “I put “Automate” right before “Mia” because I think the outro was a fair warning for how sad the album is about to get.”
Perhaps it’s because Jordan is so skilled in the art of sharing and inducing emotions, that it can sometimes happen accidentally, forcing her to balance between what she shares, and what she leaves out, even in Valentine’s vulnerability. “There was something I agreed to, but didn’t remember agreeing to, but I definitely did,” Jordan says, joking that she’s probably not supposed to be sharing this “vital information” before doing it anyway. “The ‘Valentine’ demo is going to be in certain editions of the record and that demo is TMI as fuck. You’ll be able to hear what I cut out and why I cut it out.”
In some instances, she admits it’s hard to have good lyrics, that are “just a little too far on the scale of intimate, revealing yourself more than you want to give people.” But she’s also clear that she’s unwilling to protect her self-image to a degree that feels dishonest. “I went to rehab, talk about an ugly thing,” Jordan acknowledges, before listing off some of Valentine’s subject matter. “Rehab, being a bitch, and weakness, sometimes it’s a little too far,” she pauses. “I don’t actually want people to know I was just sitting in the shower with my clothes on crying so I’m going to take out at least some of that line, you know?”