Taylor Swift drops second full album in just five months time
While the covid pandemic is a tough time for most artists with cancelled tours and loss of income, Taylor Swift is one of the few who seems to absolutely thrive in times of self isolation. She surprised the world by dropping her album folklore in July without any promotion beforehand and with a fresh folk, indie pop vibe. It became one of the most critically lauded moments of her career and became another huge commercial success for her. Now, five months later, Swift has another full album ready! Is evermore a quick way to cash in on the success of folklore, consisting of leftovers and b-sides or is it another career defining masterpiece?
In the announcement a day before the release, Swift described evermore as the sister record to folklore and explained how she just could not stop writing with Aaron Dessner (The National) and long term collaborator Jack Antonoff. “To try and put it more poetically, it feels like we were standing on the edge of the folklorian woods and had a choice: to turn and go back or to travel further into the forest of this music. We chose to wander deeper in”, she explained. And we should be thankful that they did!
To answer the question I just posed straight away: evermore is on the same incredibly high bar as its predecessor. It definitely is not a leftover compilation but a fully fledged body of work in itself. Opening track ‘willow’, pushed as first single with a music video that picks up where ‘cardigan’ left off, immediately draws the listener into another dreamy folk soundscape with warm and delicate vocal work and immaculate melodies. If evermore is folklore‘s sister, ‘willow’ is the little sister of ‘cardigan’ in terms of vibe and exquisite melodies.
In comparison, evermore leans even more on the collaborations with Dessner than folklore (he co-wrote 11 and produced 14 out of 15 songs), as Antonoff has only two co-writes this time. One of them titled ‘gold rush’ is an absolute highlight though. The track could be described as quite uptempo in the soundscape of folklore and evermore and the moment the soaring chorus kicks in is a little explosion of melodic euphoria. With her boyfriend Joe Alwyn under pseudonym William Bowery, Swift wrote the stunning piano ballad ‘Champagne Problems’, while he also receives credit on The National duet ‘coney island’ and Bon Iver duet ‘evermore’.
While Bon Iver’s contribution ‘exile’ on folklore was one of the most moving moments and among the best tracks Swift as ever put her name too, ‘evermore’ does not fully repeat the same magic. While ‘exile’ consisted of different parts written by Swift and Justin Vernon separately too, the track flowed beautifully, while ‘evermore’ feels a bit disjointed when Vernon’s part comes along. It is as if listening to two songs at the same time: two beautiful songs, but not necessarily two that flow into each other nicely. ‘coney island’ with Matt Berninger bursts with nostalgia and feeling of longing. Its story telling is subtle and poetic and Swift and Berninger tell it with an emotive precision that echoes long after the track finishes.
On folklore, Swift started to experiment more with writing from the perspective of others and she dares to take this further on evermore. ‘no body, no crime’, with backing vocals by the Haim sisters of which Este plays the starring role in the lyrics too, is an epic true crime inspired story about infidelity and murder packed in a instantly catchy country song. The swaying, romantic ‘dorothea’ is a story about a girl who returns to a small town and a crush she had there after trying to make it in Hollywood. With ‘cowboy like me’, she tells a seductive tale of two con artists who fall in love. The build up in this track is to die for with every verse a bit more breathtaking than the one before.
Of course there are some tracks that seem to hit closer to home too. The absolutely heartbreaking ‘tolerate it’ for example, which describes a relationship in which the protagonist feels like all her efforts are not appreciated by her distant partner. On the over 5 minute beauty of ‘happiness’, she shows a mature and wise look on a past relationship, cherishing the happiness it gave her at the time and the happiness she is finding after the break up. ‘marjorie’ is especially personal as it is an ode to her grandmother who passed away, but still appears Swifts dreams.
evermore is another testament of the exceptional songwriting talent of Taylor Swift. To release another record without any significant drop in quality so quickly after such a career defining album is simply unheard of. I would never purposely wish self isolation as a result of a global pandemic on anyone, but imagine if we would have never gotten to hear the magic she can make with Aaron Dessner? For her to thrive in such circumstances is absolutely admirable. She single-handedly made 2020 a bit more bearable and I am grateful for that.