To think I thought this year was over…
Instead, it’s mid-July all over again. Taylor Swift has once again dropped a surprise album with less than 24 hours’ notice, and I am losing my shit. Again. In the 5 months since its release, folklore (reviewed here) has firmly entrenched itself as one of my favourite Taylor Swift albums, getting close to the lofty pedestal upon which I have always held 2012’s Red. As a continuation of this era, let’s hope that evermore can prove as stunning as its sister album.
(A quick aside, I must say I adore the photography for this era. Beth Garrabant has created a total vibe, and it’s all shot on film so I, analogue addict that I am, love it even more.)
Mirroring ‘cardigan’, track one ‘willow’ sets the tone and themes for the album down from the off – and has already been released as a single with its own music video, again calling back to ‘cardigan’. The more low-key instrumental approach has been kept, carrying across the more rustic vibes that first appeared on folklore. With a central guitar that’s leaning towards a blend of country and classical providing the main musical thrust, it’s clearly not another case of revolution. The inclusion of pitched percussion adds to forming a deep, involving, and natural soundscape, over which Taylor provides a compelling but not overbearing vocal performance. Where less experienced artists may have gone for a centrepiece, soaring singing style, instead the vocal are kept as low-key as the other elements of the track.
Lyrically, we’re briefly back on a train of romantic relationships. However, the album infrequently leans towards a discussion of exes and heartbreak as was common on past albums – instead we see a myriad of fictional relations blossoming.
‘cowboy like me’ is one of these songs. Following the story of two hustlers who meet while swindling the rich and influential, it’s by no means a conventional love story. The title is fitting as bluesy riffing dances over a piano ballad. Is there an occasional undertone of harmonica too? I’m not sure, but whatever it is, it’s gorgeous. While the lyrics seem superficial in parts while listening, when reading through there are some absolute gems, in particular “and the skeletons in our closets plotted hard to fuck this up” is my favourite at the time of writing.
By contrast, ‘no body, no crime’ depicts the rather brutal ending of a relationship. Coming in with a siren, it soon swings into country-pop… think: banjo, with swagger. I never imagined that country could be delivered with an air of calmly veiled threat, but here we are. With Haim joining in on vocals for the choruses and backing, there’s a rich and sultry harmony that only adds to this air. Basically, if you want to murder your husband, listen to this. Then don’t claim I told you to. CUB magazine cannot be held responsible for any homicidal lusts incited by this review.
Of course, this doesn’t mean introspection is missing. On ‘long story short’ we barrel through feuding and falls from grace, looking back on the Reputation era and Swift’s very public dispute with the West-Kardashians. Bounding along with muted electronic percussion and choir bells, it’s quite low-key 1989. The chorus really hits the pop vibes too, with “’Cause I fell from the pedestal/right down the rabbit hole/long story short it was a bad time” also feeling reminiscent of work from the early-mid 2010s. With a high tempo and non-stop delivery of lines, ‘long story short’ stands out amongst the rest of evermore.
From the rest of the album, ‘tis the damn season’ is the sort of saucy and tangentially-festive song that makes it onto my allowed Christmas songs list, and ‘closure’ gets a mention for being almost weirdly industrial. Finally, ‘champagne problems’ deserves mention for its air of absolutely classic melancholy, with traditional vocal melodies over a lone piano.
Now, the unpleasant part. As much as I enjoy evermore so far, I can’t help but feel there’s something missing. A spark that made folklore such a sensation, has been lost. While billed as what was written after folklore, with Swift and co in a frenzy of inspiration, evermore feels in parts more like scraps off of the cutting room floor. Of course, it’s Taylor Swift alongside international mega-producer Jack Antonoff, so they’re damn good scraps, but part of me feels some parts would’ve been better off staying there, or as bonus tracks on a deluxe edition of folklore. To quote a past Swift song, for many songs here “it isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference”.
evermore is available on all streaming services, with pre-orders of a deluxe edition featuring two bonus tracks available on Taylor Swift’s webstore. Let’s just hope the price of that vinyl comes down, even if just to the level that folklore was at…