c. Et Al.
With an audience comes expectations—and Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan became acutely aware of both following the warm response to her 2018 debut LP Lush, released when she was only 18. “I was 100% terrified,” she tells Apple Music. “It’s so confusing to get any kind of reaction to your work. And I think it kept me from writing for at least a year, just because I was scared. I make music because I love it, so it was really all about connecting with—for lack of a better analogy—my child self.”
Making that connection was that much easier when Jordan found herself living with her parents again in suburban Maryland for five months, after the pandemic took hold in 2020. That’s where much of Valentine began to take shape, Jordan working alone in her childhood bedroom, free of distractions. Though bigger and bolder and more adventurous than its predecessor, the album is still deeply personal—indie rock that’s laced with reflections on time spent in and out of love and rehab. “Whether the actual time there was for better or for worse, it got good art out of me,” she says of being back home. “I just felt like I was just doing it for fun again, like when I was working on Lush, coming home from high school every day and writing for a while. I guess just sitting on that same carpet was pretty liberating for me.” Here, she guides us through the entire album, track by track.
“I was shopping around ideas for the record long before there was one, just wanting to put a title to the thing to maybe give it a start—like if there's just an overarching vibe, then I can start to make things. It's such a heartbreaking thing, referring to someone as your valentine in a love-lost type of way, because I just think there's nothing more tender and innocent. I just think the hurt there is pretty relatable, and when I came up with ‘darling, valentine’, it kicked me in the guts in a way that felt right for the entire thing. I just knew immediately that the record was going to be called Valentine.”
“I've always been extremely self-assured, confident and independent—especially doing this job at such a young age. And rehab just kicks that out of you in a way. You kind of have to get in touch with values in a way that is shocking. Even just in the pandemic I was like, ‘Okay, so now I need to be good at being a normal person, too.’ And that's different, and that’s not something I was so self-assured in. It was a big decision to want to just go and clean up, so that I could work again. I'm not cocky anymore. I'm dealing with what I left behind. It’s like, boom: real adulthood.”
“‘Headlock’ isn’t about losing someone so much as it is about really losing myself in a relationship. I worked on that one at my parents' house—all the synth lines I did in my room on my Minilogue, and I wrote all the lyrics sitting right there at my desk, just sort of dipping my toes into the deep darkness. With that line ‘Thought I'd see her when I died,’ I'm saying that the end goal of dying in this case would be to be reunited with this lost love. It came from a real dark spot that I was in.”
“I wrote it for a girlfriend. It feels like I was young at the time—I was 19—and even though it wasn't that long ago, in a way it was. I guess I meant it to be a gesture, but also kind of a declaration. I don't remember it being a particular communicative relationship but it was fiery and I think that was my way of communicating my feelings at the time—and I think that comes through.”
“That song was initially constructed from a sample of a song, ‘You and I’ by Madleen Kane. I heard it forever ago and I was just really moved—it has some magic that feels like I really feel. And I had never really dabbled in sampling, but I just couldn't stop thinking about being involved with the song somehow, selfishly. So I brought it to the studio in North Carolina and we isolated the sample and slowed it down. It's kind of a deep cut in a way, and random that I heard it. I don't know that much about disco at all.”
“I was raised Catholic and went to Sunday school. I was in the church band. And the song is about putting someone on a pedestal and worshiping them and how that just doesn't translate into anything but resentment and anger once you kind of step away from it. Using religious metaphors and my knowledge from that time of my life felt exciting and genuine. I have a deep fear of being blasphemous—I don't want to disappoint my mom.”
“c. Et Al.”
“I spent a lot of time writing it in the van, actually, on tour. I had a little portable amp that hooks up to headphones and I would just play it in there because I don't like to come up with lyrics around other people. It's complex, because I’d be sitting in the van for eight hours a day or something.”
“Very angry and upset vibes. And it's similar thematically to ‘Madonna’, goes within the same grieving process and theme of anger. It's disenchanted as fuck. It’s like no matter how angry I am and no matter how much I try to make this something where I'm in control and I'm the one making demands, at the end of the day I still would do anything for the subject of the song. No matter how in control I feel, I don't even feel like I belong to myself because I'm so entwined in this person's life.”
“I think that there comes a time when—through experience and through fucking up and learning about my needs and myself—love becomes less of a fantasy and less of a game. There’s so much that needs to exist for love to be healthy, and once you realise that relationships are more than what you imagined them to be as a teenager and as a kid, it just becomes a lot more loaded. Like love, real love, is unconditional in a perfect world, and it's loving somebody beyond the good stuff. Being in love with someone is taking them where they're at and having them take you where you're at, and that's the brutal truth being uncovered in that song: It’s not all about passion and fire.”
“‘Mia’ is the only song with a full orchestra on it and the whole shebang. Originally, we sent the song to an arranger and they sent back some ideas. I wasn't crazy about the arrangement, so I played some of the arrangement myself on a synth and sent it back and was like, ‘Can I hear this?’ That synth line that got translated into an orchestral moment is one of my favourite parts of the song—it was super collaborative.”