I never thought I’d review Taylor Swift. And yet she fearlessly provided two of the best albums of 2020. So I figured that I’d write a double review. Folklore stood out as an introspective, poetic album. Evermore—which was just released today—is a free-spirited indie-pop album. Each album is armed with elite features from bands like The National, Haim, and Bon Iver. They provide nuance to the albums. But nobody steals the show from Swift. Her vocals are good. Her lyrics are fantastic. And her flow and delivery are perfect for the production, which seamlessly blends elements of pop and indie facets (looks like Swift is done making “country” music). Indeed, these albums prove that artists don’t exist in a static world. They can grow. They can regress. But Swift has gradually improved from Red to 1989 to Lover to Folklore to Evermore. I have no doubt that Folklore and Evermore are her best works.
Review of Folklore (July 24th, 2020)
If Taylor Swift’s first two albums Taylor Swift (2006) and Fearless (2008) are what you consider the trademark music of Taylor Swift, then Folklore is the antithesis. Swift’s first two albums are cheesy, generic, unoriginal, superficial, sonically mundane, and uninspiring. Folklore, however, is quite different. It is careful and intimate. It is emotionally textured. It is well-produced. It is, in all ways, excellent. This is particularly evident in the brilliant songs Cardigan (a smooth, catchy instant hit with surprisingly poetic lyrics) and Exile (a raw, emotionally-layered duet with Justin Vernon—the lead singer of the fantastic indie band Bon Iver). Meanwhile, the other songs are far from “filler content,” so to speak. Each song is meticulously woven into the essence of the album. Folklore is not a prototypical collection of fragmented songs (as was the case for Swift’s early works); it is a cohesive work of art that excels from the first line to the last. Just keep an open mind and don’t expect the proverbial experience that once existed in Taylor Swift’s music. Because Folklore is one of the most impressive albums of the year.
Review of Evermore (December 11th, 2020)
The cover art for Folklore features a black-and-white photo of Swift in the woods. The cover art for Evermore features a colored photo of Swift in those same woods. This is no coincidence, it seems. While Folklore is a more raw, stripped-down album, Evermore is more diverse. It meanders. This isn’t inherently indicative of an increase or decrease of the quality of the music—but rather a mere shift in Swift’s style. This one is perhaps more like her album Lover (2019). It is playful and fun. Lover was solid. Evermore is on another level, though. It also has more replay value. There are lots of neat little hidden details. Certain ideas, themes, and narratives don’t come into focus until you’ve heard the album at least 4 or 5 times. Like Folklore, it evokes a transcendental feeling—like you’re listening to something that really comes alive in your head. It is very emotionally evocative, even relatable. I haven’t heard the album enough to write a full review. It could be anything from a 7 to a 9, so I might make edits. Then again, I often stick with my gut. It tells me that while Cardigan and Exile are the best Swift songs of 2020, Evermore is still a solid 7.5 or 8.