Taylor Swift – Folklore / Evermore : A Sonic Throwback

Pop phenom Taylor Swift decides to look into the past for her latest two albums.

   The year 2020 was a wild year for music. Fiona Apple made her comeback after eight years of silence, The Weeknd dropped his biggest project since House of Balloons, and Logic retires from music with his last album ever. But what no one expected was Taylor Swift dropping two surprise albums in one year. It had only been 11 months since the release of her last full-length album Lover, which is one of her longest albums to date. It feels like after Lover, she took a break in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, and that set the scene for her next album.

   Swift naturally grew from a country sound, most notably from her 2006 self-titled debut album, very clearly inspired by country artists from that era. As she grew as a person, she grew as a songwriter Comparing her debut album with 2008’s “Fearless,” she went from country to a mixture of country and pop, with her songwriting maturing as well. She progressed more and more, for better or for worse. Fast forward to 2020, she decides to look into the past. Recruiting The National’s Aaron Dessner was a good choice. And more shockingly, folk legend Justin Vernon, better known as Bon Iver, shows up on both Folklore and Evermore. 



   Now, shockingly, I have very different opinions on each album. Folklore… I’m not that into it. I’ve listened to it time and time again, and it’s just not clicking for me. It has grown on me over the months I’ve sat with it. At first, I didn’t like it at all, but a few key tracks I’ve grown to love. Tracks like “Exile” with Bon Iver, “my tears ricochet,” “August,” “Seven,” and most importantly, “Mirrorball.” These tracks see Swift going into an indie-folk but also chamber pop direction, as Swift has a heavy focus on vocal harmonies and delay on these songs, which add a lot to the narrative to the album.

I actually disliked Mirrorball at first, calling it too atmospheric, but then I thought to myself, “isn’t that the point of the song?” Sadly, there are some tracks I just do not care for whatsoever. “The 1,” “Betty,” and “This is me trying” are the main examples in my opinion. For me, the atmosphere Swift tries to go for does not match with the lyrics at all, especially with “This is me trying.” It feels she either overshoots the message or undershoots the message on most of these songs. Overall, Folklore feels a little too hit or miss for my liking.


FAVORITE TRACKS: The Last Great American Dynasty, Exile (feat. Bon Iver), My Tears Ricochet, Mirrorball, Seven, August







   On the other hand, I like Evermore a lot. She sticks with the indie-folk theme, but with a slightly poppier tone, at least on some key tracks. “Evermore” with Bon Iver is just a perfect indie song. Bon Iver’s vocal performance is just phenomenal.  One of the tracks on Evermore has Swift going back to her reputation-era songwriting, but… it’s actually good. “Willow” is very beautiful, Swift’s harmonies are unmatched here, I would argue. The song reminds me of something in the second half of Lover. “Ivy”’s the lead melody is perfect for the tone of the song, and Swift’s performance matches the energy extremely well. “tolerate it” has one of the best choruses on the whole album, met with piano and electronic stutters in the background. It adds such a unique sonic atmosphere that you can only hear in a The National song. The background instrumental to “closure” for some reason reminds me of Radiohead’s “Videotape,” with the odd time signature (5/4 to be exact), the distorted drums and synth snippets just add an eerie atmosphere, with Swift struggling with, well, closure. It’s a weird turn to take for an album that’s mainly composed of indie-folk ballads, but it doesn’t really interrupt the album’s flow all too much.


FAVORITE TRACKS: willow, Gold Rush, ‘Tis The Damn Season, Tolerate It, Dorothea, Ivy, Long Story Short, Closure, Evermore (feat. Bon Iver)

LEAST FAV TRACK: Coney Island (feat. The National)




My Final Thoughts

   I had to sit with both of these albums for a while before I could really get a grip and understand what Swift was trying to portray on these albums, but it’s not that far off from her previous album, as some themes stay the same. This has some of Swift’s best songs across both albums, and some of her best songwriting and lyricism in years. Love, heartbreak, closure, and struggling to find the right person for her. But Folklore and Evermore tells these stories at a very different angle than any of her previous work. It makes me happy for Swift that she’s conquered her demons, and it took her going back to where she started to realize that.