This image is from the official "Valentine" single cover, owned by Matador Records.

Following a nearly three-year hiatus, Baltimore singer and guitarist Snail Mail has returned with the lead single for her upcoming sophomore album, Valentine. The 22-year-old musician, whose real name is Lindsey Jordan, won the hearts of the indie rock community with her debut album, Lush, in 2018. Since then, Jordan has been writing new music, weathering the throes of heartbreak and navigating the strange phenomenon of entering adulthood on the stage. 

“Valentine” is a testament to the growth Jordan has undergone since her last project. On first listen, one of the most notable changes is in her vocals. They’re deeper and raspier than usual, as if weighed down by Jordan’s trials in love since she last left off with her listeners. The track begins with a soft synth as Jordan sings breathlessly, “Let’s go be alone / Where no one can see us, honey / Careful in that room / Those parasitic cameras, don’t they stop to stare at you?” “Valentine” chronicles love with balance behind closed doors, simmering in quieter moments of longing and contrasting swells of intensity with equal attention.   

By the chorus, Jordan has erupted into frustration and guitar riffs, shouting, “So why’d you wanna erase me, darling valentine? / You’ll always know where to find me when you change your mind.” It isn’t quite anger in Jordan’s voice, but a crushing awareness that her relationship is perpetually trapped in the shadows. 

This narrative comes alive perfectly in the “Valentine” music video, a period piece and slasher-imagining of Jordan’s secret love. She plays a lady’s maid of a wealthy Victorian woman, with whom she maintains a covert relationship. After seeing the woman kissing a man at a party, Jordan stabs the man in a fit of rage, accidentally killing her lover in the process.     

As the video comes to an end, a blood-stained Jordan eats mouthfuls of cake while forlornly watching herself dance with her dead lover in the distance. 

Despite the betrayal she’s faced and her own impulsivity, Jordan remains steadfast in her feelings by the song’s close. In its final lines, she sings, “No, I can’t hate you / I’d ruin me for you / Blame me if you need to / But I adore you.” 

“Valentine” is an exciting window into a new era of Snail Mail. Jordan is no longer the 17-year-old she was when she wrote Lush, but her storytelling abilities remain just as fresh and intimate. 

Daily Arts Writer Nora Lewis can be reached at noralew@umich.edu.