Happy 31st birthday, Taylor Swift!
I think as music listeners we all aspire to have tastes that are based more on artistry than they are about popularity. Artists that experiment are few and far between in mainstream as it’s all about getting that radio time, streaming time and online trending. Taylor Swift went out of the path and into the woods with folklore. Now she’s willing to delve further with a sister album that has even more songwriting and storytelling to it.
The 9th studio album is called evermore. This one is definitely related to folklore in origin but seems willing to explore further. I get reminded of the comparisons between the amazing Fearless and the more experimental Speak Now. Taylor’s best challenge is her own past craft. I love the feeling of folklore and its warm embrace, and it’s hard to replace with another album. It feels too soon. Then you realize that you don’t have to give up anything because the more you listen to evermore the more it complements the sounds of its predecessor.
Before we start, this is going to feel less than a review and more like a story. Just as she’s become more of a poet, I feel like this warrants a storyteller more than a blogger just for this review. This will be long and it might make no sense to you at all. I won’t blame you if you click away at some point.
The starting track “willow” does not pick up where “cardigan” left off musically, although it does on the official video (only using Lyric videos for the review). It has a vibe born out of the same place but it feels to branch out further. As a lot of tracks do, it actually starts slow and then seems to lead you astray as it gets you lost. It’s not fair, she’s always one step ahead and it feels we’ll lose her if we don’t hurry. If you’re a casual listener, this will feel like a completely new songwriter. If you’ve been following her, it’s just a natural progression. It has a strong chance to be in my favorite rotation list occasionally.
Listening to “champagne problems”, I felt like Taylor is chiming in with more calming sounds. In comes the piano with a grounded, warming tune. It’s kind of the songwriter wanting to give us something soothing to make sure we’re ok even if she’s the one getting us lost in the beginning. She’s making the new territory her own and sharing it with you so you’re willing to keep walking along her side. Another potential in my favorites rotation.
We’re picking up the beat with “gold rush”. She seems to be asking us to keep her pace, but trying to keep up with the songstress is a challenge. I love this song, with ethereal secondary choruses coming up that make it feel a little too short. This song ends abruptly. It’s like we skipped and jumped through the bushes and she saw something up ahead and we had to stop. It’s a favorite that ends too early.
The clearing is the track “’tis the damn season” and this is new and old. She’s going for nostalgia, but it’s nostalgia told with a twist. It’s bittersweet and feels like dark chocolate or strong bitter flavoured coffee without sugar. There’s so much light in this chorus and dark, expressive lyrics where we don’t know if we’re joyous or regretful. We’re willing to accept it anyways because this one is such a treat to listen and an easy favorite one.
We’re hearing a mistress of her craft as “tolerate it” flies in. The lyrics and melodies of this one are adorable. She’s keeping it casual with the piano, so much so that it feels almost jazzy. It also contains a full and rich bridge that gives me the chills. I didn’t even notice the violin going in until it was already there. This is a bright ray of light and yet the lyrics have an edge in them, an uneven relationship between someone in love and someone who’s fallen out of it. It’s almost unfair to name this one as a top favorite because you know everyone else will also proclaim it is theirs. Nevertheless, this is at the top favorite of my list right now.
Banjo and harmonica break in with “no body, no crime”. This country crime story featuring classic swiftian crossover band HAIM would be out of place in folklore but here it’s like a run into an old friend in the middle of the forest. It’s playful, it’s also a guilty listening pleasure that you hide from your friends. More than likely they’re also hiding it from you. Another favorite for sure. I really want a video for this one for the antics alone.
And then we get to “happiness”, which is everything but that. This is a very melancholic song, which is not bad on itself but it’s not a particularly high point for me. I get it that it is awkward in delivery on purpose, but it’s tone is a little too on the nose. It never gets off the ground, and it feels like I’m walking in circles without going anywhere. Whether on purpose or because I can’t stand its mood, this one might be a low point for me. Perhaps it will grow on me with time, but right now it has to climb its way up from the lower tier.
We then walk onto “dorothea”, which is a welcome breeze of fresh air with big piano sounds and an upbeat disposition. I feel we really need it. It’s sort of Taylor coming back for us because we fell behind and she’s leading us down a shiny and sunny path. Hope seems bright again. This song is spiritually akin to folklore‘s “betty” but it has a different personality, less than a sing-a-long but just as happy. A favorite on rotation.
We’re definitely back on the path with “coney island”. This collaboration with The National is good, although not as innovative as other tracks. It’s like we’re glad we’re walking in the woods without necessarily going anywhere. It’s calm and safe, perhaps at some points a little deceptively so. No surprises, but that’s ok. It’s a very solid track, with a middle-of-the-road feel to it. I would put it in the middle tier with a chance to favorite on occasion.
We’re into more fluid territory as we traverse “ivy”. This is a more interesting offer, with a couple of twists and turns that gives me the impression we’re running through the woods in zig zag. It’s a little careless but it’s also very innocent, if perhaps with a hint of naivete. Despite that, it’s colourful and imaginative. I was hoping for a more swiftian bridge, but it’s a favorite on rotation.
When we get into “cowboy like me” it’s almost like we’ve distanced ourselves from being lost and taking a step back and reflect. We’re liking this, we’re seeing how this walk in the woods will become a definitive memory in time. Taylor is talking about us in this song, bringing you in as a close friend. Slow and with a little stringy guitar, this one is reminiscing about this moment as it happens. Of course, it has a little country flavor to it. Another favorite on rotation.
Time to step it up a bit with “long story short”. This is Taylor pulling us forth again, but at this point we’re keeping up. This one’s brisky, light and friendly. Perhaps it doesn’t say much or anything at all, but every little sound and chime and beat makes you dance and run with the rhythm. A light and fun favorite.
Taylor shows more mature aspects in her storytelling skill with “marjorie” where she includes some high notes and some run-a-round strings. This one feels like a very grown up kind of melody. There’s happiness born out of a lifetime of ups and downs. This is Taylor’s eulogy to her grandmother in song, and a very high tribute crafted when the songstress is at the top of her game. A favorite and deep track with several layers, some which I’m still discovering.
I’ve never heard a Taylor Swift song start like a Björk song, but that’s exactly what “closure” does. I’m glad for the piano to show up like a rescue buoy. It’s a hectic rush through the final thorny bushes as we’re starting to see the way out. We’re almost out, and yet not in a hurry to do so. Experimental and yet still very much Taylor, this one is in my favorite rotation.
Our walk in the forest ends in evermore. This collaboration with Bon Iver is where we’re out of the woods. There’s an experimental choir-like bridge two thirds in that I’m not sure how well it fits with the rest of the song. The change in tempo took me out of the reverie. It’s not my favorite bridge, and it might be the one I have the least of affinities towards. The rest of the song is good. This one is not in my favorite rotation and stays in the lower tier for now with potential to grow.
I leave the final word to Taylor. I love this album. It has favorites, it has growers, it has a heart. Most important, it’s a progression of the same style than folklore as Taylor shows us how she’s evolving and experimenting as a musician, songwriter and performer. And yes, you should get evermore. This is why the Taylor’s prologue message ends this already lengthy post.
Coming up in the Calendar!
- December 13: Happy 31st Birthday, Taylor Swift!
(Sources: Taylor Swift. Featured image: Photo by Beth Garrabrant for Taylor Swift)