In this year where we all started baking bread, growing herbs, and taking long, long walks, Taylor Swift released two albums that feel like she is prepping the sourdough starter for us. And while this sonic bread may not taste as good as it looks on IG food thirst traps, it’s just what we needed.
In this godforsaken year of 2020, Taylor surprised us all by dropping folklore—right in the throws of my (and many others’) descent into #cottagecore territory. In the same year where many of us moved back home and we all started baking bread, growing herbs, and taking long, long walks, folklore similarly sounds like a return to Taylor’s roots, but in a much more mature style. Accompanied by imagery of forests, cabins, wool coats, and airy lace dresses, folklore feels like a warm blanket placed upon your shoulders by an old friend.
I compare folklore and Taylor’s return to a more low-key-folksy style to a blanket because that’s how it feels to be- reliable, safe, comfortable, and comforted. It’s not necessarily the innovative, or risky, or experimental left-turn that some musicians make. For me, it’s certainly not one of those albums that absolutely blew my mind, changed my life, and became a major part of my identity—like Tame Impala’s Currents for example (I have the song title “Yes, I’m Changing” from that album tattooed on my arm). But ever since it came out, I’ve found myself throwing it on at times when I want to be lulled into a soft place—driving on a rainy day, cleaning my house on a Sunday afternoon, curling up outside in a sweater and drinking coffee.
Needless to say, all these feelings about folklore led me to have a jolt of excitement when she announced that she was dropping ANOTHER album—a sister album to folklore—titled evermore. And these two albums definitely feel like sisters, but perhaps sisters in 10 Things I Hate About You. Taylor describes evermore as the result of her venturing deeper into the woods of the storytelling that she ventured into with folklore, and I can definitely see that. At points, evermore feels a little grittier, a little wilder, and together, they make a great collection of stories and songs.
For me personally, I was super excited about these albums because she worked closely with Aaron Dessner of The National on the albums, and because each album had a Bon Iver feature (for the record, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver is my actual favorite musician of all-time, and I will immediately drop everything and listen to anything he touches). Aaron and Justin actually collaborated on a project called Big Red Machine in 2018 that I absolutely loved—yes, I have a song title from that album tattooed on my body as well. Jack Antonoff also played a large role in the production of both albums, and he’s worked a lot with Lorde, who is another one of my favorite musicians. So knowing that they’d be working together on this album made it an instant must-listen for me, and I can definitely feel their influence, which is another reason that these albums have brought me back to Taylor, I’m sure.
Now, I’m gonna share my totally unfiltered thoughts about some songs from the two albums:
Exile: Bon Iver is on the track, so naturally I gravitate toward it. I love that we get to hear Justin’s lower range, it’s a refreshing change of pace from Bon Iver’s high-pitched, falsetto, harmonious vocals. Justin’s vocals at the onset of this song feel raw as fuck, and it sets the somber tone. This song is definitely a slow build. At first, it sort of put me off, but over time I began to appreciate the slow burn. The song really goes off as soon as Justin says, “so step right OUT!” If you’ve heard it, you know what I’m talking about. The final third where Taylor and Justin sing over one another is really powerful and well done. I loved how this part really showcased the crumbling of a relationship from both perspectives. Favorite lyrics:
I never learned to read your mind (never learned to read my mind)
I couldn’t turn things around (you never turned things around)
‘Cause you never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)
Mirrorball: Sonically, I love the atmospheric, echoey feel of this song. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it feels good. Personally, I relate to this song because it touches on picking up on the energies and personalities of others and reflecting them back, and I often feel like a chameleon of sorts in that I tend to pick up some of the tendencies and communication styles of whoever I’m with, often in an effort to preserve peace and a sense of closeness. Favorite lyric:
And they called off the circus
Burned the disco down
When they sent home the horses
And the rodeo clowns
I’m still on that tightrope
I’m still trying everything to get you laughing at me
Happiness: When I first heard this song, I could tell how much Taylor’s grown vocally. The music is simple, which allows her voice to take center stage. Speaking of growth, this song hits you in the heart, but ultimately has a theme of growth. The overall message of this song is that when looking back on a relationship, you are able to feel the heartbreak while simultaneously honoring the happiness that the relationship brought you. Big “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” energy. And yeah, it made me cry. Favorite lyrics:
There’ll be happiness after you
But there was happiness because of you
Both of these things can be true
There is happiness
There’ll be happiness after me
But there was happiness because of me
Both of these things I believe
There is happiness
In our history
Marjorie: Goddamnit, this song hits. It is about Taylor’s grandmother, Marjorie. When I first heard it, it got me right in my feelings about how grandmothers might be the purest people, with the purest love. The imagery of her grandmother influencing her life and remaining alive in her head is so beautiful—and I just picture her grandmother looking down on her and being so immensely proud. I cry every time I hear this song… I mean I’m already a crybaby, but when I was listening to it on I-35 and I still cried as I rolled down the highway, I knew it was just that much. Also, in the end, Taylor says “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were singing to me now”, and she found her grandmother’s old opera recordings and incorporated them into the music. Fuck. Favorite lyrics:
I should’ve asked you questions
I should’ve asked you how to be
Asked you to write it down for me
Should’ve kept every grocery store receipt
‘Cause every scrap of you would be taken from me
Watched as you signed your name Marjorie
All your closets of backlogged dreams
And how you left them all to me
Evermore: Ah yes, another track with Bon Iver. I really love Taylor’s message and melody in this song. Similar to “Exile,” it feels like a slow burn. I have to admit, Taylor’s part and then Bon Iver’s part sort of feel like two different songs to me—it’s such a shift when Bon Iver comes in and it doesn’t quite feel like it flows to me—but I LOVE both parts individually. Bon Iver gave us some “For Emma, Forever Ago” vibes on his part. Overall, I’m still going to keep this song on rotation because I do love both parts. I just wouldn’t mind if they were two separate songs.
Favorite lyrics: Not one particular lyric, but the fact that she starts by saying “I had a feeling so peculiar that this pain would be for evermore” to “I had a feeling so peculiar that this pain wouldn’t be for evermore.” Chills.