A generation’s most prolific storyteller
Kelsey Barnes
14:04 11th December 2020

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Releasing an album with no warning is, in and of itself, a feat that not many would attempt to do once. Doing it twice within five months is both unfathomable and unheard of even in the most ordinary of years. Luckily for us, Taylor Swift has never conformed to being just any ordinary artist.

After the release of the now critically-acclaimed folklore, Swift found herself at a crossroads: does she turn out of the woods and head back to familiar territory, or does she choose to embrace the unknown, however scary it might be? Swift chose the latter; venturing deeper to uncover the fables that flicker throughout her brightest of daydreams and darkest of nightmares. The catalyst of that exploration became folklore’s counterpart and Swift's 9th studio album evermore.

Like any sisters, these two albums demonstrate different facets of Swift and her creative endeavours; where Swift was navigating new stylistic choices on folklore, she’s wholeheartedly embracing it on evermore. Rather than making a carbon copy of folklore, she created its freer, more rambunctious sister by playing around with what she’s learned and built throughout her previous 8 albums. Where folklore was a sonic departure from Swift’s first 7 albums, evermore is tying them altogether; pulling in the unforgettable hooks built between her self-titled, Fearless and Speak Now, the layered production stemming from 1989, reputation and Lover eras, and the intimate soundscapes created on Red and folklore. This is more prevalent than ever on ‘willow’ ‘long story short’ and ‘gold rush,’ all songs that could be dropped anywhere in Swift’s discography and find companions in songs like ‘Delicate,’ ‘Untouchable,’ and ‘You Are In Love.’

As folklore's follow-up unfolds, it’s clear where the two differ. evermore is Swift easing into the new album creation process she discovered on folklore by further welcoming the freedom that comes by not restricting herself to making radio-friendly hits. She dances between genres and finds herself reaching back to her country roots in a team-up with the HAIM sisters, scheming against an adulterer in The Chicks’ ‘Goodbye Earl'-inspired song ‘no body, no crime’ and using what she learned in her Nashville days to pen the hazy ‘cowboy like me,’ a masterclass in country storytelling and narrative building that features a dreamy harmony vocal by Marcus Mumford. 

Through her sheer determination to metamorphose with every new album released since her debut in 2006, there’s a reason why Swift has been deemed this generation’s most prolific storyteller. Her ability to deftly craft tales and weave complete & complex characters in a 4-minute track is unmatched and this couldn't be clearer than on ‘Marjorie,’ a dedication to Swift’s grandmother who passed when she was 13. Anxiously grappling with her grandmother’s ever-lingering presence in her life (“What died didn't stay dead/you're alive in my head”) Swift breathlessly declares her regrets many of us have when loved ones pass in a bridge should be seen as one of Swift’s best in her discography.

Much like the album's sister, Swift's collaborators have their fingerprints all over evermore; Aaron Dessner produces a large chunk of the album, and The National finally get their own feature on the poignant & reflective ‘coney island’. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon returns with another duet to close the album, Jack Antonoff’s signature hooks and infectious lyricism returns on songs like ‘gold rush’ and ‘ivy’ and Swift’s very own William Bowery (boyfriend Joe Alwyn) co-writing three tracks, too.

With a glimpse into a watered-down love created by proximity in ‘tis the damn season,’ an unbalanced level of power and love in ‘tolerate it,’ and learning to move on from a destroyed relationship with a lot of grace in ‘happiness’, evermore as a whole should not exactly be heard as a direct comparison to folklore but as a continuation of a bigger story—one where Swift is toying with new structures, storytelling techniques, and surveying where she can take her career next after she is ready to leave the woods.

On the title track and the album’s closing song, Taylor sings "it was real enough/To get me through.” With a glimmer of hope and flickers of optimism found throughout the two albums, thanks to Taylor and her whimsical and terrifyingly brilliant brain, it feels safe to say 2020 was not a complete waste: it brought us this body of work that was created in large part due to isolation and meant to be listened to as a form of comfort. It was real enough to get us through, and thank god for it.

evermore is out now. Read our review of folklore here.

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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Photo: Press