. . .
A couple of years ago, a Twitter reply guy messaged me and asked me if he was correct in assuming that I stopped listening to new music in the 2000s. Because all he knew about me was Certain Songs, and Certain Songs is heavily weighted towards music of the last century. Of couurse, there were more decades in the 1900s than there have been in the 2000s, so that’s part of it, but honestly, it’s mostly music from the 70s-90s that I focus on. You know, music that came out while I was young.
That said, I’ve written about more post-1999 songs than I’ve written about pre-1970 songs, and anybody who knows me knows that i’ve probably listened to more music – a wider variety of artists and genres — in the past two decades than I ever did when I was young. Which might be part of the reason that Certain Songs skews older: the more songs that are in my life — and my curated iTunes library shows 41,000 at this point — the harder it is for a new song to make an impression.
But, of course, they still do: otherwise I’d totally stop listening to new music. Which means I’d miss out on a great song like the title track to Snail Mail’s 2021 album, Valentine, which came out just as all of the music publications were beginning to work on their best-of lists.
On Valentine, Lindsay Jordan, the singer-songwriter behind Snail Mail, opened her music up beyond the guitar-bass-drums from her Matador debut, 2018’s Lush, and while I think that Lush was more consistent, there were still some great moments on Valentine, most notably the title track, which opens up with a synth wash, a lightly hit snare and some quiet guitar.
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?
Jordan sings this softly and quietly, and continues in that mode for the second verse.
Can’t love for us both
You’ve gotta live and I gotta go
As long as it’s us two
Fuck being remembered, I think I was made for you
And before you can process all of the pain and hurt and fear in “fuck being remembered, I think I was made for you,” “Valentine” just utterly explodes into an absolutely magnificent chorus.
So why’d you wanna erase me, darling valentine?
You’ll always know where to find me when you change your mind
Jordan sings and plays the chorus with full-throated abandon, totally holding out “erassse meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” and in between each line, cranking out big rhythm chords on her guitar, as the drums smash and crash all around her. It’s an absolutely stellar use of the old quiet/LOUD/quiet formula. And sure, it’s a trick that’s older than she is — hell, it’s a trick older than I am, really — but rarely has it ever been deployed this effectively.
Valentine the album got uniformly good reviews, and even made the top ten of the Billboard Independent Albums, Rock Albums and Alternative Albums charts. (Though on the big one, the regular Albums chart, it only made #61, because current rock just ain’t that big among the kids anymore.) All I know is that it will be interesting to see what she does next.
“Valentine” Official Music Video
“Valentine” live on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, 2021
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