The same artist two weeks in a row? I know it’s bad, but hear me out
Record of the week: Valentine — Snail Mail, 2021, Matador Records
The same artist two weeks in a row? I know it’s bad, but hear me out. Valentine is a particularly potent album that has made a huge, rose-coloured splash in indie circles and it deserves a full review. Valentine is indie-rock phenom Snail Mails’s second album. I’m a big fan of the first song, the eponymous “Valentine” of the album. The droning synth intro gives way to a rocking first verse weeping away the listener. Next, “Benjamin Franklin” as we’ve already discussed sounds even better when contrasted with the more emotional “Valentine.” The key bass is a great segue between the two — the more gentle “Valentine” being overpowered by a robust bassline. “Light Blue” is a ballad if there ever was one, complete with mournful piano, acoustic guitar, strings.
In an interview with Stereogum, Jordan mentions R&B as one of her genre influences. This influence is clearly recognizable on “Forever (Sailing),” complete with a slick electronic drum kit and girl-group backing vocals. It sounds like it could be an early TLC outtake. “Madonna” is a dark and jangly pop song about repenting one’s lover’s regrets, in which Jordan talk-sings “I don’t need absolution, it just hurts.” Ouch.
Themes of heartbreak and substance abuse are a dusky dose of reality covering an album that seems deceptively slick and professional. In “Madonna,” weed, in “Benjamin Franklin,” alcohol, in “Glory” (“When you take too much in bathrooms”)…various. I wouldn’t say any of these coping mechanisms Jordan describes are healthy — and since Jordan has historically had a penchant for the autofictive, she’s most likely speaking from personal experience. This can be a fine line to walk: it does make the album more emotionally raw, but it also blurs the boundary between reality and commodity (I mean, she’s selling the album) in a way I’m not particularly fond of. Also, 31 minutes for a major-label release seems remarkably tight — but we can blame our short attention spans for that. Despite it cutting off a bit short, the album was a great listen. It closed with another ballad-adjacent song, the outro being a single note played on violin.
Single of the week: “BBZ” — Claudia Bouvette, 2021, Bonsound
From Quebecois indie-pop Claudia Bouvette comes her most recent single, “BBZ”. From a 2021 produced pop song comes anachronistic aesthetics: the music video is a portrait of 70s excess, with carpeted bathrooms, bell bottoms, and warm fuzzy grainy film.
Bouvette poses the question many different times, “am I f***king crazy to want your babies.” Her concern with herself being crazy is probably indicative of a baby as a symbol of her male obsession and not an actual desire for children. The trap beat is sophisticated, and so are the washtub distorted backing vocals. A harmony-laden bridge is a great interlude before a synth solo takes over the melody. A final spoken-word “do you think I’m insane?” wraps up this troubled, but catchy, single.
Discovery of the week: Tiger Trap — Tiger Trap, 1993, K Records
Like Valentine, here’s another album for the young and heartbroken. I found this while sifting through twee-pop releases on RateYourMusic (what I do at 2 a.m. is none of your business) and put it on while mindlessly scrolling on Twitter. By the second song, “You’re Sleeping,” I was awash with a sense of yearning. Tiger Trap, named after the apparatus Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes uses to catch his beloved Hobbes, is so earnest and youthful and catchy and you’ll get lost in all the interpersonal relationships that they create. In “You’re Sleeping,” the lyrics are “When was the last time I saw your face? Smiling away like it was in the old days / now I just look away, quietly so as to not to disturb you” are fragile and heartbreaking. Singer Rose Melberg’s voice is quiet and haunting, with cloying, but sincere, sweetness. The other girls in the band harmonize sparingly, preferring to simply sing the melody along with Melberg. When they do branch off and complement each other, it’s quite pretty.
“Eight Wheels” is one of the weaker tracks on the album, but it still has live-studio performance energy with some girlish shouts at the end of it. “Eight Wheels” and “Tore a Hole” are rougher and tougher than the others, with more guitar distortion on the amps and louder drums. The whole album carries a youthful exuberance with it, even on tracks like “Words and Smiles” that describe a shy girl pursuing a relationship with, probably, no potential: “you’re like a dream come true” denotes an obsessive attachment to an ideal. As a friend describes, the album is like “being hugged without having to touch anyone”.
One of my personal favourites on the album, “You & Me”, is a beautiful ode to a new love. “Shade me from the sun another day,” is a succinct and understated expression of love that Melberg somehow puts into words. Like giving someone your jacket, shading them from the sun makes them need you, and Melberg begs for “another day” of this care. Unfortunately, like many good things, Tiger Trap was short-lived, only putting out one album. Formed by two high school friends Rose Melberg and Angela Loy, along with two other girls Heather Dunn and Jen Braun, Tiger Trap was big on the twee-pop scene that accepted and even preferred female voices — not just as vocalists, but as songwriters. The girls would later go on to play in other bands, especially Melberg, who founded Go Sailor and played with Gaze and The Softies. If you like Tiger Trap, check out Go Sailor.