When Taylor Swift says she doesn’t have a lot going on at the moment, you should not believe her for one damn second. Because the last time she’d said that, she dropped a literal album on us out of no-freaking-where and sent us all to a cottagecore dreamland in the woods. So when she said that very same thing again a few weeks ago, I wasn’t buying it. But then again, I thought, like most other humans, that she’s hard at work re-recording her first six albums that she made with her old label. Or, at most, making a music video for ‘exile’ with Bon Iver. What I was not expecting, however, was another trip back into the woods with a whole new album and the feels that come with it. Because on December 11, 2020, Taylor Swift decided that she is going crown herself as the saviour of 2020 once again by dropping a sister record to her critically acclaimed soft alternative album folklore; called evermore.
I’m elated to tell you that my 9th studio album, and folklore’s sister record, will be out tonight at midnight eastern. It’s called evermore.
📷: Beth Garrabrant pic.twitter.com/xdej7AzJRW
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 10, 2020
I, like the rest of the planet, was simply not prepared. Most of us spent our quarantine lazing around and slogging through zoom calls and online classes. Taylor Swift decided she’s going to be the most productive human being alive and make two indie-woodsy-alternative albums to dull the pain of 2020. And while evermore is a sequel or sister to folklore, that record stands tall all on its own. It definitely still carries on the moody, indie-inspired alt-rock sound of the previous album. But there is more variety, playfulness and experimentation in this record. If folklore is the introspective and quiet older sister, evermore is the carefree, freewheeling younger sibling.
There are more characters, stories and metaphors all woven in the absolutely gobsmacking songwriting that Taylor Swift is known for. So here’s a track by track review of this surprise right in time for sweater weather:
The moment this song started playing, I realised it is basically a cousin to “invisible string” from folklore. The way Taylor sings, “Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind,” sounds awfully similar to the way she opens “invisible string”. But I love it, and it is a sister record after all, there are bound to be some similarities. Overall, willow is soft and beautiful and loving. The music is happy and brings a small smile to your face. She even made a music video for this song, and it picks up from right where “cardigan” ended. It takes her through a bunch of places where she is trying to find “her man” and she finally finds him exactly where she started from in the end. And then they venture out into the world together. It is so beautiful and heartwarming. Take a look for yourself:
We are introduced to our first story from evermore with “champagne problems”. Written with her boyfriend Joe Alwyn (under the pseudonym William Bowery), this time she tells us the heartbreaking tale of a woman walking away from her boyfriend the night he planned to propose. She takes the full blame for his heartbreak and disregards the anger from his family and friends. This story is as heartbreaking as it comes. With lyrics like, “Your mom’s ring in your pocket, my picture in your wallet, your heart was glass, I dropped it,” playing over a soft piano, you truly feel the pain of a man watching love slip away from his grasps. It is quintessential Taylor with her brilliant songwriting, and it is gut wrenchingly beautiful.
“gold rush” is what you’d get if you took a song from her hit album 1989 and turned it into a more subdued but still slightly shimmery pop record. This song is about the insecurity that comes with liking someone who is too beautiful, too in demand, too popular. She sings about how exhilarating and exciting it is to have a crush on someone like that, but is also happy to pass that opportunity up. It’s about falling out of love with a beautiful boy. She infuses her ‘folkloric’ sound with 80’s synth pop tones to create the magic that is “gold rush”, and it works beautifully.
’tis the damn season
This song introduces us to our first new character from the land of folklore – Dorothea. Swift offers us a very interesting twist on a Christmas song as she croons about a Hollywood actress returning home for the holidays, only to end up in bed with her high school sweetheart, even though she knows it won’t lead anywhere. We will get to know her story from the guy’s perspective further into the album in “dorothea”. This song is bittersweet and somehow the perfect Christmas song for 2020, and it will tug on your feels even though the music sounds happy and optimistic.
At first glance, “tolerate it” might seem like a song written about an ex boyfriend. It is not. But it is still just as damning and heart-wrenching as any of her break up records. This song is about how one person’s whole hearted, all consuming love and affection is met with harsh indifference on the other side. Each lyric is like a gut punch, “If its all in my head tell me now, tell me I’ve got it wrong somehow, I know my love should be celebrated, but you tolerate it.” Swift sings in such a soft, resigned manner that it is devastating, and the music only helps elevate the pain of those emotions.
no body, no crime (feat. HAIM)
Easily the best song on the album. A badass, wicked country-rock ballad about murdering a philandering husband? Sign me up. Collaborating with the rock band HAIM, Taylor Swift has created the ultimate revenge country song that just gives me so many Gone Girl vibes, I love it. “no body, no crime” introduces us to Este (yes, Este and Danielle Haim feature as characters in this story), who suspects her husband is cheating on her. Then she goes missing and Taylor suspects that her husband murdered Este, because just days later, Este’s husband’s mistress moves into their house. So what does Taylor do? She murders the husband and frames the mistress. Oh, and Danielle is there to vouch for her if police ever come knocking on her door. The perfect vengeance ballad through and through. I need a music video ASAP.
The title is very misleading. “happiness” has nothing to do with the emotion, instead it seems to be about divorce. But at the same time, it is so much more than that. It is an ambient song about forgiveness, seeing someone in a different light and personal reflection. The divorce is amicable, and Swift perfectly manages to capture all the complex emotions that come with parting with someone you once loved with your whole entire heart.
Here we learn about Dorothea from the perspective of her high school sweetheart who was introduced in “’tis the damn season”. Some time seems to have passed since that song. Dorothea is now a famous and successful Hollywood actress, and her old flame from Tupelo yearns for her still. And if she ever wants to come back, he’ll welcome her with open arms once again, “And if you’re ever tired of being known for who you know, you know you’ll always know me.” “dorothea” is all about yearning for your one true love, even though they might never want you back again. And this song is just as heartbreaking as they come.
coney island (feat. The National)
On this song, Taylor has collaborated with the members of The National. It is with the help of one of its members (Aaron Dessner) along with Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) and boyfriend Joe Alwyn (as William Bowery) that the magical world of folklore and evermore came to life. “Coney Island” is beautiful and sad and it reminds me of “exile” from the previous album a little. But if I had to choose the better duet between the two, I would still go with “exile”. However, this song has its own melancholic charm to it, and I love that the music is mellow and that the real strength of this song are the voices of Taylor Swift and Matt Berninger.
This song is about falling in love with a person while being married to someone else. “ivy” is laden with metaphors, but that is just the charm of Taylor Swift. Swift sings about being powerless against the force of this crush, at one point even ready to throw it all away for an extra-marital affair. And there is quite a hefty sprinkle of ‘goddamn’s in the mix for all of us to enjoy.
cowboy like me
“cowboy like me” is about two gold digging con artists who fall in love and promise an impossible life of stability to each other. And Taylor Swift is joined by Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons to provide the backing vocals. This song sounds slightly country-rock, and the music is very melancholic, “Never wanted a love, just a fancy car, now I’m waiting by the phone like I’m sitting in an airport bar,” Swift croons. Also, that guitar solo in the end is magnificent.
long story short
Taylor Swift said she derived a lot of songs on this album from fiction, but “long story short” is very much grounded in reality. This song also feels very 1989 in the sense that it is almost a pop record. A little more production and it could fit right in with the Blank Spaces and Out of the Woods’ of the past. It is Swift looking back at her past mistakes and difficult times, shrugging and saying, “Long story short, it was a bad time.” There are references to her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian as she sings, “I wanna tell you not to get lost in these petty things, your nemeses will defeat themselves.” And she also references her short summer fling with Tom Hiddleston, “Long story short, it was the wrong guy.” This song is a valedictorian address to the world after all the madness that she went through. Long story short, she survived.
This song is a beautiful eulogy to Taylor Swift’s grandmother Marjorie Finlay, who she lost when she was 13. This is one of the most moving songs on the album. She sings about the guilt that often accompanies grief, “And I complained the whole way there, the car ride back and up the stairs, I should’ve asked you questions, I should’ve asked you how to be.” It is completely devastating to listen to, and with Justin Vernon providing backing vocals, it just elevates the beauty of it. There are recordings of the late Marjorie Finlay’s operatic vocals infused into the song too. “marjorie” is a song about the delayed tragedy of losing your loved one, especially when you were too young to understand their full worth. And it will definitely make you cry.
This song sounds completely different from the rest of the album right off the bat. Swift is angry, and she doesn’t hold back as she growls her way through “closure”. The song is about an ex wanting to seek closure and still be friends, and Taylor is having absolutely none of that. “Yes I got your letter, yes I’m doing better, I know that its over, I don’t need your closure,” she sings. The music sort of threw me off a little, but it works, and it is a damn good ‘f*ck you’ song.
evermore (feat. Bon Iver)
We finally come to the end of the album with the title track “evermore” which once again features Bon Iver. The song opens with a beautiful piano composition courtesy of William Bowery/Joe Alwyn. And this song is not sad, instead, it is a beacon of hope. Justin Vernon is back, and this time, we get to hear him in his quintessential Bon Iver high register. There are similarities to “exile” in the sense that Swift and Vernon again overlap each other in the bridge. But instead of singing about two ex lovers trying to figure out which one is to blame, they sing about Vernon finally getting the girl. Towards the end, the uplifting instruments clear the fog, and there is a sense of hope and redemption. And then Swift delivers the final line of the album, “I had a feeling so peculiar…this pain wouldn’t be forevermore,” providing a hopeful and satisfying end to two albums that were born out of the devastation that has been this year.
Taylor says she doesn’t know where she is going to go from here, and at this point, neither do I. I didn’t think there was any way she could have topped folklore, but here she is, showing us all there is more where that came from. All I know is that folklore and evermore are gifts to anyone who needs a warm hug on a cold wintery day – which is pretty much everyday this year. So wrap yourself up in your favourite cardigan, grab a drink of your choice, curl up in a cosy spot and enjoy the masterpieces that are these two album. ’tis the damn season, after all.
Featured image via Billboard