“Valentine” by Grey DeLisle

Pastoral melodies are surging through the underground this spring, but of the slow-rolling acoustic numbers I’ve had the chance to sample lately, I don’t know of any that can hold a candle to “Valentine” by Grey DeLisle. Composed by Murry Hammond of The Old 97’s, who also plays guitar on the track, “Valentine” is a brittle piece of balladry that reaches out to us with its fragility only to inspire tremendous strength with its every word. DeLisle is a captivating force to be reckoned with as lead vocalist, delivering a performance that I would call nothing less than heavenly. 

Official Website: https://www.greydelislegriffin.com/

The music video for “Valentine” is as straightforward and simple as the song itself is, but the rusticity its imagery openly embraces has a certain endearing quality I’ve immediately felt taken aback by every time I watch it. From one frame to the next, it feels like we’re watching an old home movie that’s been pieced together, the reels battered by time but still capable of transporting us to a unique moment in which this single was born. It’s powerful, surprisingly emotional, and one of the better examples of cut and dry brilliance I can point to among American indie rock this year. 

I really love how the vocal is naturally the strongest element in the master mix, getting no boost from the EQ nor requiring a heavier backdrop to sound absolutely searing. DeLisle’s voice is so hesitant in spots, and yet this very hesitance often feels like one of the most fearless components of the harmony because of the emotion subtext it implies. The narrative here could be broken down a million different times in a million different ways, allowing for multi-interpretive poetry to sound heartfelt no matter the occasion. It’s subtle but striking at the same time, which is what every ideal release in this genre should be. 

While the foundation of this track is its simplicity, I wouldn’t call “Valentine” an effort steeped in minimalism (especially as the term applies to most of the pop music coming out of the woodwork this year). The harmony between DeLisle’s voice and Hammond’s guitar alone is far too big and bold to ever fit into such a defined aesthetical category; in fact, I would even say that the ethereal stylization of the chorus and Greg Leisz’s pedal steel accent lend some indulgence to the big picture in the most positive way fathomable. 

Hammond and DeLisle truly are a match made in heaven in this performance, and if you’re in the mood for an angelic piece of balladry this March, you can’t go wrong with “Valentine.” Grey DeLisle has never disappointed me in the studio, but this is such an exceptional recording that I would rank it as one of the best she’s ever collaborated on. Her voice is the icing on the cake while Hammond’s compositional muscularity speaks for itself, and to me, I don’t think indie pop/rock nor serious singer/songwriter fans the same can afford to miss out on this release. 

Zachary Rush