Taylor Swift - Folklore: Review
In the midst of a quarantine there have been predictions about artists coming back full force with new original material for the transition back to normality. Taylor Swift was one of those artists, who nobody expected to drop something so suddenly after just delivering the fun romp that was Lover. Folklore, however, is opposite her usual pop spectrum and shifts into morphing these new sounds that are transcendent for her. With help from Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dressner, Taylor co-writes and co-produces one of her best albums to date.
Unlike Taylor Swift's previous albums, the self-aware indulgence is put to the side as she weaves her dreams and emotions into stories that feel resonant of what a simple Grimm Brothers / Hans Christian Anderson tale could be. The fictitious tales are more than the preface. They tell stories that resonate with her past and the fairy tales one would write in their diary.
She uses analogies to the struggle she overcomes from being placed on this pantheon of others. With triggering events like the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards to her condemnation from the rest of her conservative base when she sent the tweet condemning a candidate in her home state. These events, amongst others, has made her “universally hated by her town,” like one of the many exemplary characters in Folklore.
Taylor Swift’s visceral song writing is present with effervescent aromas of harmonic bliss in the production. “Cardigan,” has this luminous piano and low synths that begins a tale of a teenage love triangle. The complex layers she dives into, thematically, are only just the tip of the iceberg. “Cardigan’s” folk-influenced structure with subtle nods to Lana Del Rey style of slow paced and operatic voice.
Folklore’s sound is organic and transitions smoothly from track to track. On most cases the album comes off as a project by The National with Taylor Swift providing lead vocals, specifically on “The Last Great American Dynasty.” It’s a song that felt tailor made for her vocals, and the melancholy percussion helps mellow out the evolving power of her voice.
Some tracks tend to fall under the radar as it can get too tamed and relaxed, though it isn’t a hindrance when you return to the album. They are great in their own way, like “mirrorball,” but don’t have that extra push that 90% of the album has. And as they transition, it never loses that organic nature of the live instrumental layers.
One of Taylor Swift’s strengths is knowing how to construct a duet with many great frontmen, but nothing has hit with a similar virtuoso as “Exile,” featuring Bon Iver. His vocals fit the moody chamber pop ballad that feels like a devastating dream. Like many of the tracks on Folklore they hit emotional punches to the guts with the tragedy begotten near end. And it’s a testament to the consistent praise her songwriting has received throughout the years.
Folklore has come with a blissful surprise from the artist, and with the plethora of great music released this year, Taylor has finally made a worthy stamp in her own unique way. This album’s beauty lies within the overlapping layers that attract us to them initially. The core of it all tells these illustrious stories with finite details that will have you coming back for more.