A Book and an Album: Valentine and Bluets

Snail Mail Valentine album cover

Presenting two women after my own heart: Lindsey Jordan (of indie rock solo project Snail Mail) and Maggie Nelson (author of, among many other breathtaking works, the prose-poetry collection “Bluets). These two artists write about devotion, longing and self-revelation in ways that cut to the core. So, I’ve done the logical thing: Listed all 10 tracks on Snail Mail’s sophomore album “Valentine,” along with lyric highlights and emotional descriptors, and assigned each song a related quote from “Bluets” to guide your reading and/or listening. Happy yearning!

Bluets by Maggie Nelson book cover

1. “Valentine”

Highlight: “Can’t love for us both / You’ve gotta live and I gotta go”

Tempo: Slow, then surging. Chest-banging.

Tags: Unrequited love, jealousy, young fame

Related: “‘We mainly suppose the experiential quality to be an intrinsic quality of the physical object’ — this is the so-called systematic illusion of color. Perhaps it is also that of love. But I am not willing to go there — not just yet. I believed in you.”

2. “Ben Franklin”

Highlight: ”Moved on, but nothing feels true / Sometimes I hate her just for not being you”

Tempo: Head-bobbing, bass-slapping.

Tags: Relapse, yearning, lying

Related: “And we have not yet heard enough, if anything, about the female gaze. About the scorch of it, with the eyes staying in the head.”

3. “Headlock”

Highlight: ”Can’t go out, I’m tethered to / Another world where we’re together / Are you lost in it too?”

Tempo: Walking, slowly. Swaying.

Tags: Heartbreak, daydream, alone

Related: “I admit that I may have been lonely. I know that loneliness can produce bolts of hot pain, a pain which, if it stays hot enough for long enough, can begin to simulate, or to provoke — take your pick — an apprehension of the divine. (This ought to arouse our suspicions.)”

4. “Light Blue”

Highlight: “I wanna wake up early every day / Just to be awake / In the same world as you”

Tempo: A leaf, floating down.

Tags: Adoration, devotion, unconditional love

Related: “I have been trying to place myself in a land of great sunshine, and abandon my will therewith.”

5. “Forever (Sailing)”

Highlight: “No matter where we are / I love you from the city to the stars”

Tempo: Soaring, unsteadily.

Tags: Obsession, fantasy, crushing, crashing

Related: ”To take a breath of water: does the thought panic or excite you?”

6. “Madonna”

Highlight: ”I consecrate my life to kneeling at your altar / My second sin of seven being wanting more”

Tempo: Pushing and pulling.

Tags: Pedestal, punishment

Related: “I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world.”

7. “c. et al.”

Highlight: ”Baby blue, I’m so behind / Can’t make sense of the faces in and out of my life”

Tempo: Running on empty.

Tags: Spiritual void, routines, dissociation

Related: ”Mostly I have felt myself becoming a servant of sadness. I am still looking for the beauty in that.”

8. “Glory”

Highlight: ”You want it all, superstar / Jesus died just to save you”

Tempo: Steady, charged, desperate.

Tags: Worship, ownership, glamor, helpless

Related: “I am not interested in longing to live in a world in which I already live. I don’t want to yearn for blue things, and God forbid for any “blueness.” Above all, I want to stop missing you”

9. “Automate”

Highlight: ”I guess I couldn’t keep her fire out”

Tempo: Blundering, lurching.

Tags: Party, lust, conditional love

Related: “And what kind of madness is it anyway, to be in love with something constitutionally incapable of loving you back?”

10. “Mia”

Highlight: ”Isn’t it strange, the way it’s just over?”

Tempo: Mournful lullaby.

Tags: Goodbye, growing up, empty

Related: ”For to wish to forget how much you loved someone — and then, to actually forget — can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a habitat of your heart.”

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