Snail Mail talks 'emphasizing the opposite' for new album 'Valentine' NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Lindsey Jordan, whose 2018 debut turned out to be a breakout success, about her newest album, "Valentine."

Snail Mail talks 'emphasizing the opposite' for new album 'Valentine'

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SNAIL MAIL: (Singing) Let's go be alone where no one can see us, honey.


Lindsey Jordan is Snail Mail. The 22-year-old musician makes music that moves deliberately and then delivers. She was called a leader in the next generation of indie rock by Pitchfork when her first full-length album came out three years ago. Now Snail's Mail out with her second. It's called "Valentine."


SNAIL MAIL: (Singing) So why'd you want to erase me, darling valentine?

SIMON: Lindsay Jordan joins us from New York City.

Thanks so much for being with us.

LINDSEY JORDAN: Hey, what's up?

SIMON: Your last album, "Lush," had a lot of guitar. This time there's still guitar, but a lot of other different sounds - electronic, orchestral strings. What was your thinking? Why did you want to bring in new instruments - or new to you, I should say?

JORDAN: I mean, I was involved with the production element of things this time in a way that I wasn't previously. A lot of my choices for the, like, instrumentation were really just kind of what felt natural to want to experiment with. It was a lot of trial and error and trying a lot of different things and a lot of different parts and adding things and taking things away before reaching a balance that felt like just enough.

SIMON: Well, tell us about that trial-and-error process. Help us understand artistically what you go through.

JORDAN: So I'm a little bit of a perfectionist (laughter). Actually, I'm a serious perfectionist. It's like - slows me down all the time. I find myself making multiple drafts of lyrics and sometimes completely starting over before getting, like, just a few lines that stick. And the same can be said for trying different arrangements and additions here and there. And just - I think it's really about figuring out first, you know, what the actual meat and potatoes of the song is, making the demo. And I felt like once I had a song that was perfect on its own, then I could start adding bells and whistles, so to speak.


SNAIL MAIL: (Singing) You and I, like a ship, forever sailing. You and I, everything we try is failing. Everything we do, everything we try.

SIMON: All these songs are in the first person. What do we make of that? How much of yourself first person is in there, and how much of it is artistic imagination?

JORDAN: Oh, I would say it's about 99% accurate and maybe 1% artistic imagination.

SIMON: Really?

JORDAN: Yeah. I mean, I give that 1% to "Ben Franklin." Having kind of an intentional, apathetic tone - just to sort of emphasize the opposite being my actual state and sort of, like, the fact that I was trying to put space between myself and the source of my pain. But beyond that, it's all very - I don't want to say confessional because I'm not out to confess anything. It's more a cathartic exercise for me.


SNAIL MAIL: (Singing) Lived on, but nothing feels true. Sometimes I hate her just for not being you. Post rehab, I've been feeling so small. I miss your attention. I wish I could call.

SIMON: And we must touch on the fact that rehab finds its way into your music too, doesn't it?

JORDAN: Sure does.

SIMON: Tell us about that, if you could.

JORDAN: I made the choice to take an extreme step to get myself into a place where I felt even-headed and clear enough to do an album cycle and to give the record that I had made serious progress on the best version of myself because I was like, I'm making serious progress here. Everything that I'm doing, it feels great. But I just, like, felt like I needed to hit pause and just get myself into a very mentally fit place before doing anything as dire as, you know, entering into a new album cycle.

SIMON: You were in your teens when you released your last album. You're now in your 20s - just a couple of years, but those can be, under ordinary circumstances, event-filled years. How do you look back on songs you wrote just a couple of years ago?

JORDAN: I want to value the work that I did then because it was important to me then, but it's hard for me to take my teenage self seriously. Going on tour and trying to perform those songs with conviction is already kind of a confusing prospect for me. Like, I'm trying to picture myself out there, you know, with passion in my heart singing about this crush that I was singing about when I was 16 or 17, I don't know.


SNAIL MAIL: (Singing) Even with a job that keeps me moving, most days I just wanna lie down...

SIMON: Let me ask you from the perspective of what you've learned, these lessons that are so fresh with you, maybe over the last couple of years, what makes a song stay away with people, become important to people, do you think?

JORDAN: I ask myself that all the time. I feel like - sometimes when I think I'm sure that one song is, like, the one that's going to blow people away, it ends up being a completely different one than - you know, than I thought. So it's hard to say. I think something that makes songs stick with people, at least in my experience as a writer, is raw emotion with context but not so much context that people can't bring their own into the fold, you know?

SIMON: Lindsey Jordan - her new album as Snail Mail is called "Valentine," and is out now for Matador Records.

Thank you so much for being with us.

JORDAN: Thank you so much for having me.

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