Image: Taylor Swift. Beth Garrabrant.
Well she’s done it again. The legendary, iconic and genre less talent that is Taylor Swift has released her second surprise album of 2020, evermore. The release marks her third record in sixteen months, and serves as the sister piece of her critically acclaimed and record breaking album, folklore. The collection of songs continues the alternative folk sonics Swift explored on folklore, again enlisting The National's Aaron Dessner, producer extraordinaire Jack Antonoff, William Bowery, the pseudonym of Swifts partner Joe Alwyn and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon on the body of work. This time around, Swift brought along HAIM for the ride.
Opening with willow, you can’t help but hear reference to Swift’s 2012 track Safe And Sound in that warm and smooth guitar line. Sure to become a fan favourite, the song harks back to the vivid imagery and magical story telling of Swift’s earlier records, the sweet love song continues the tone set on folklore. There’s even a nod to the drama that has plagued Swift’s career, with the lyric “I come back stronger than a 90’s trend”. The piano-led champagne problems tells the tale of two young lovers with different intentions for the night, one hoping to propose and one longing to leave. On folklore, Swift set out to document stories she’d heard, imagined and experienced, and pass them down to future generations. champagne problems is a perfectly heartbreaking example of that, complete with a gut-wrenching and emotional bridge, something Swift has become known for.
Opening with lush and ethereal harmonies, gold rush at times has threads of the 80’s laced synth pop present on Swift’s critically acclaimed 2014 record, 1989, something also present on long story short which serves as the most pop infused track on the record. tolerate it vividly tells the story of a lover who is not appreciative of your affection and love, putting up with it instead of celebrating it. “Now I'm begging for footnotes in the story of your life” Swift sings in the bridge as she pulls on your heartstrings and stirs up emotions of your own past loves. Swift was inspired by her fondness for true crime documentary and podcasts when writing no body, no crime. With her country roots in full force, the track documents a marriage that ends in infidelity, revenge and murder. The track features sister-trio HAIM and is a standout moment on the record, full of nostalgia for the country superstar Swift cemented herself as during her earlier years.
On happiness, Swift juxtaposes the title with the lyrical content as the musician sings of hoping to find happiness after there demise of a relationship, having experienced it with her previous partner. That happiness turned sour, “When did all our lessons start to look like weapons pointed at my deepest hurt?” The track seems to reference F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, a story she returns to time and time again, this instance saying, “All you want from me now is the green light of forgiveness” and titled after Daisy’s first line "I'm p-paralysed with happiness”.
Swift continues to tell the tales of young high school sweethearts, with dorothea putting forth the story of a young man, left behind when his love searches for fame in Hollywood. The song draws comparisons to folklore track betty, both written from the perspective of a young male who has lost his high-school sweetheart for differing reasons. Elsewhere on ’tis the damn season, Swift seems to explore the reverse side of the situation, telling the story of a girl named Dorothea who returns to her home town and reconnects with an old flame.
Swift’s main writing collaborator, Aaron Dessner, on the record appears on Coney Island with his band The National. Swift’s sweet and warm vocals are juxtaposed by the low and commanding presence of Dessner’s vocals, working in perfect unison to create a beautifully crafted moment on the record. The song feels like the sequel to Swift’s 2012 collaboration with Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, The Last Time.
ivy is a devastating love story of a married woman who finds love with another, continuing the theme of infidelity explored in no body, no crime. Full of rich and evocative metaphors, the heartbreaking track is reminiscent of illicit affairs, which featured on folklore. Both present the idea of infidelity in nuanced sympathetic light. The blues-led cowboy like me features backing vocals from Mumford & Sons‘ Marcus Mumford. “Now you hang from my lips, like the Gardens of Babylon” Swift sings on the track about finding love with someone who shares similarities with you.
If you’re a Swift fan, you know the importance of the number thirteen. Track thirteen on folklore explored the experiences of Swift's Grandfather in the military. evermore’s thirteenth track is titled marjorie, a tribute to Swift’s late grandmother. On the song, Swift navigates emotions off loss, whilst knowing that her grandmother lives on in her and will forever be in her mind and her heart. Having recently lost my grandfather, the emotional track struck a chord. Swift manages to perfectly encapsulate the feelings and thoughts that run through your head, wishing you asked more questions and held onto things as mundane as grocery receipts, clinging to a tangible object that reminds you of your loved one.
closure jumps from time signature to time signature, something Dessner is known to do within his own experimental music. The song explores an ex-lover wanting to force their closure upon you, wanting to be on good terms to make themselves feel better. The record closes with the title track, evermore. Featuring Bon Iver vocalist Justin Vernon, the piece ends the second chapter of Swift’s folk exploration perfectly. Drenched in emotive piano and brilliant vocal performances from both artists, the song continues the frosty interaction of previous lovers that featured on their collaboration earlier this year, exile. Building to a euphoric ending, the record ends with the lyric “This pain wouldn't be for evermore”, a message that is needed more than ever after the tumultuous year of 2020.
Once again, Swift has proved she knows no boundaries. Her foray into the sonics of folk and alternative sounds is soothing and comforting, whilst also distracting you from the realities of the world for sixty one minutes. Complete with vivid lyricism and Swift’s trademark knack for storytelling, the record is more subdued than its predecessor, but just as sharp and innovative. Full of dreamscapes and breathtaking vocal performances from Swift and her collaborators, the record once again brings the magical nature of Swift’s earlier record into a more mature light. This spectrum of emotions and sounds is dark yet beautiful, fearless yet pulled back, perfectly imperfect, subtle and introspective. Swift’s venture further into the woods she explored on folklore proves to be another standout moment in the musicians career.
evermore is out now!