ALBUMS: Snail Mail Crushes Heartbreak Into Dust

The singer-songwriter braids broken heartstrings into an elegant portrait of pain with her second studio record

Snail Mail (Image: Matador Records)

“I’m not coming back,” squeaks Lindsey Jordan.

She repeats this simple phrase four times, each turn barely above a whisper, in the final frames of “Light Blue,” as if she’s trying to convince herself not to fall back into love’s tortured orbit. That line, rooted in her own shame, plants firmly inside the volcanic core of her second Snail Mail record. Valentine detonates with quiet, sharp blasts, and when you think she’s done, she twists the knife just a little bit more.

“Most days I just wanna lie down / Sweep it away until it’s nothing / And pull the blinds all the way down,” she wallows in the mucky grief of lost love, acoustic guitar pricking like needles on “c. et. al.” That’s something they don’t tell you about heartbreak: the physiological response is much the same as mourning a dead loved one. A broken heart is a broken heart is a broken heart. It doesn’t matter, really, how one arrives with such a gaping hole in their chest; what matters is the aftermath and wading into it and out of it. It’s how you survive terrible ruin that defines the experience.


Artist: Snail Mail

Album: Valentine 

Label: Matador Records 

★★★★ (4/5 stars) 


“Ben Franklin” oscillates between chewy desperation, sticking like gum to the bottom of your sneakers, and fork-tongued hatred, spraying a misty venom in her wake. “I guess the shit just makes you boring / Got money, I don’t care about sex,” she seethes softly through clenched teeth. Later, she lets the cold-hearted facade slip a bit, and the still-unstoppable teardrops poke through her vocal performance. “Raised your voice to me / Second time, I had to make myself believe / I deserve it, I’m crazy / But don’t act like you never met me,” she gulps air as she slides into the ethereal rings of her head voice. Jordan’s vocals crack under the pressure of pain, and it’s within those fleeting moments the listener is slammed headfirst into the breakup’s jagged edges.

Snail Mail Valentine, Matador Records 2021

Valentine’s “Headlock” deceptively drifts, aimless as a river chiseled into the Colorado mountains, and drapes over some of the record’s most drab lyrics like “Mr. Death wants my baby now.” She’s lost herself, and her sanity, to the knuckles of a relationship, and so, she simply lets go, an out of body experience as she’s dragged “with you to Nirvana, baby.”

 

 

“Glory” feels similarly connected, at least in musical spirit, whereas “Automate” mangles piano together with knotted percussion and static guitar. And finally, “Mia” tucks away into that safe haven, a brief moment of quiet before the atom bomb erupts into the blue sky. “Isn’t it strange the way it’s just over?” she ponders, the still of the earth ringing in her ears. The quiet is terribly alarming, almost as eviscerating as the heartbreak itself, yet it might be the only real moment to assess the damage with as clear a head as she can muster.

Valentine is frequently subdued, a delicate and pale little record 一 but one which devastates all the same.

 

VIDEO: Snail Mail “Valentine”

 

 

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott is a West Virginia-based freelance writer specializing in music, horror and LGBTQ+ issues. They also have bylines in Billboard, Grammy.com, Uproxx, Greatist and many others. Itching for creative freedom, they founded their own music-discovery and indie-horror site called B-Sides & Badlands. Reach them @JasonTheScott.

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