Album Review: Evermore – Taylor Swift
Due to an unprecedented lack of opportunity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, artists have been forced to find unique, unconventional ways to express their creativity. Zoom theatre. Streamed living room concerts. Poetry readings on YouTube. Fortunately for music lovers, brand new albums continue to be released in 2020, a perfect reminder that music will prevail even in the darkest of times. Only five months after the surprise release of her critically acclaimed Folklore, Taylor Swift has done it again. The singer/songwriter announced the drop of her ninth studio album, Evermore, three days before her 31st birthday. On Twitter, Ms. Swift shared, “Ever since I was 13, I’ve been excited about turning 31 because it’s my lucky number backwards, which is why I wanted to surprise you with this now.”
Much like Folklore, Evermore (which is considered to be the “sister record”) presents a cozy, stripped-back taste of Ms. Swift’s masterful songwriting. Building on the aesthetic of Folklore, the new record delves into a fresh indie-folk vibe complemented by a focus on lyrical storytelling. The warm album incorporates its fair share of harmonicas, piano melodies, strings, and Western flares. Evermore showcases a developed, mature Taylor Swift – one who isn’t afraid to explore adult themes of forgiveness, infidelity, and grief through the use of earned expletives and experimental mid-song transitions.
It’s clear Ms. Swift (accompanied by teammates Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, and Justin Vernon) has spent the past year thinking, reflecting, and dreaming. These thoughts have been beautifully crafted into the fifteen tracks that appear on Evermore (with an additional two bonus tracks on the deluxe physical edition). Sharing the spotlight are the pop-rock sisters of HAIM (in “No Body, No Crime”), alternative rock band The National (in “Coney Island”), and indie-folk band Bon Iver (in “Evermore”).
While Evermore feels directly related to its predecessor and maintains the same folk tonality, it stands successfully as an independent body of work. “To put in plainly, we just couldn’t stop writing songs,” Ms. Swift explained on Twitter. The records complement each other flawlessly. If Folklore is the bones of the skeleton, then Evermore is an added layer of skin, covering a body that is perfectly minimal yet full of life. Where the albums differ is in their production – with Evermore feeling slightly fuller of dimension, deepening the style first introduced in Folklore. Ms. Swift’s acoustic melodies are matched alongside synthetic atmospheres which work together to build a rich, euphoric sound. Avoiding an all-too-common pop music error, the production team has kindly placed the vocal line alongside the many other instruments that make up the balanced arrangements of Evermore. It’s symphonic, no singular component reigns over the others.
The arrival of Folklore and the expansion of Evermore reveals the core of Ms. Swift’s artistry: songwriting. Each song is a narrative that intertwines developed characters with metaphorical poetry, requiring multiple listens to detect each detail of the scene. While the album is entirely cohesive, particular tracks – or perhaps stories – deserve special praise. “Gold Rush” confesses that feeling of envy as you watch others swoon over the person you want to keep to yourself. In “‘Tis the Damn Season,” a high school fling reignites during a short hometown visit. “Tolerate It” describes an underappreciated romantic’s struggle with a partner’s indifference. “Happiness” balances the nostalgia of a past relationship with the recognition of an optimistic future. “Marjorie” is a heart-shattering accolade to Ms. Swift’s own late grandmother, who inspired her musical pursuits.
Crowned as American Music Award’s “Artist of the Decade,” Ms. Swift has dipped her musical toes into numerous styles throughout her career. It began with her signature country sound in Taylor Swift, Fearless, and Speak Now; slowly transitioning into pop with Red; finding synth-pop and radio success in 1989; experimenting with electronic production and defying criticism in Reputation; combining folk subtleties and glittery pop in Lover; and finally landing in the delicate yet wise aesthetic of Folklore and Evermore. It is safe to say that Ms. Swift has found gold. She has come full circle, an achievement that mirrors not only how far she’s gone, but how authentic she’s remained. Evermore is the truest testament of her craft and leaves only two lingering questions: what will she do next and when will we have the privilege of listening to it?
Arriving just in time for winter, the album fits like a comfy, oversized sweater. It is a small sense of protection that keeps the heart feeling and the brain thinking – a tool that could not be more useful in a time of endless fear and loss. On the morning of Evermore’s release, Ms. Swift shared, “I also know this holiday season will be a lonely one for most of us and if there are any of you out there who turn to music to cope with missing loved ones they way I do, this is for you.”