On the 10th December, Taylor Swift revealed what no one saw coming; another album, hot on the heels of its sister, and her undisputed success, folklore. Her eighth album was released in July and provided a nostalgic, melancholic soundtrack to the summer that never was. This ninth album delves deeper into her narratives of infidelity, mental health, and overarching romantic, platonic, familial, and self love.
I admit: I was sceptical. After all, I have been entranced by folklore since its release, and recently again with the long pond studio sessions soundtrack that provides a soft, acoustic twist to an already folksy album. Even though it was released over halfway through the year, it still dominated my own Spotify Unwrapped. And, just five months after its release, Taylor drops yet another musical bomb – or, perhaps more accurately, another stone in her lake, the ripples of which will continue as long, if not longer, than folklore.
I think that evermore, musically, has even more depth than its sister. A counterpart to folklore‘s ‘epiphany’, ‘marjorie’ is dedicated to Taylor’s late grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, one of her musical inspirations. Haunting lyrics mixed with a rich, slow melody perfectly capture a feeling of grief, especially with Finlay’s own operatic vocals weaving throughout the song. Taylor’s song writing here is soft and beautiful in a way that, I think, has only matured in the five short months since her last album.
‘ivy’ feels like it follows its themes of infidelity and forbidden love but walks further into the forest folklore has created. ‘tolerate it’ and ‘happiness’ paint more detailed character portraits (that some critics will be quick to ascribe to Taylor herself) and more nuanced and quietened depictions of the breakdown of a marriage, building on the third-person work she had so carefully cultivated in folklore.
Oh, goddamn‘ivy’, taylor swift, aaron dessner & jack antonoff
My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand
Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another
Oh, I can’t
Stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone, your ivy grows
And now I’m covered in you
However, songs such as ‘willow’ and ‘gold rush’ act as pop interjections that, at first listen, don’t seem to fit with the rest, especially as ‘willow’ opens the album. But like many of Taylor’s pieces, it’s possible that one or even ten listens just sometimes isn’t quite enough. Some of her other synth, pop-esque tracks just captured my attention more, such as ‘long story short’ and ‘closure’. ‘cowboy like me’ works to further complicate her feminist re-writing of the “gold-digger” story as seen in ‘the last great american dynasty’. ‘no body, no crime’ is a surprisingly up-beat collab with Haim and more reminiscent of Taylor’s country roots, but with a more intriguing and not so predictable narrative and melody.
Usually, I am not a fan of musical collabs; I feel that both artists end up losing something in the compromise. Yet, as already demonstrated in folklore’s ‘exile’. Taylor’s voice balances beautifully with that of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and does so again in ‘evermore’. ‘evermore’ feels like a perfection conclusion to this album; folklore, I felt, should have ended on ‘peace’, and instead left ‘hoax’ feeling overwrought. The song begins with a solitary piano, courtesy of William Bowery, better known as Taylor’s partner Joe Alwyn. It is raw, and achingly simple, before being purposefully complicated by Vernon’s accompaniment. ‘evermore’, more than being the title track, encapsulates a feeling that seems to stretch on forever – whether grief, sadness, or, indeed, lockdown – but knowing that it won’t.
And I was catching my breath‘EVERMORE’, TAYLOR SWIFT, JOE ALWYN & JUSTIN VERNON
Barefoot in the wildest winter
Catching my death
And I couldn’t be sure I had a feeling so peculiar
That this pain would be for
And, just because absolutely no one asked for it, I have ranked my first impressions of evermore. If you only have time to listen to one song, it has to be ‘champagne problems’, if only for the lovely and unexpected lyric, “she would’ve made such a lovely bride – what a shame she’s fucked in the head”. It is classic Taylor, with surprisingly thoughtful and cheeky lyrics wrapped in a stuck-in-your-head melody.
- champagne problems
- ‘tis the damn season (the anti-Christmas track you didn’t know you needed)
- no body, no crime
- cowboy like me
- tolerate it
- long story short
- coney island
- gold rush
At first glance, Taylor’s newest album may be read as excerpts and demos of folklore; but what lies beneath is a beautifully realised conceptual album that stands alone as well as alongside its sister. I think – by the thinnest margin – I enjoyed folklore more, if only for its more consistent tone that spoke to the 2006 Swiftie in me. evermore is, however, more willing to take risks with form and genre within the album, and is one that is sure to a be a firm favourite with fans and casual listeners alike. Once again, Taylor Swift is allowing us to cry, scream, dance, and simply feel everything in these turbulent and uncertain times.
To cut a long story short, I’m off to listen to the whole album at least ten more times before dinner, have a good cry, and try and look forward to the new year, whatever it brings. Feel free to join me.