During the summer of the 2020 apocalypse, nothing surprised Swifties more than when Taylor Swift dropped a surprise album. folklore received some of the best reviews of the year and her career so far – inspiring fans and critics about the type of art that can spring out of such a crushing pandemic. And then fast forward half a year later, and Swift with Aaron Dressner dropped an early holiday bombshell with a sister album called evermore.
If folklore showed Taylor Swift in all of her folksy might, evermore takes a twist for a mix of old-fashioned whimsy and witchiness-inspired country. Evermore doesn’t quite pick up where folklore left off – it’s not copying or continuing stories from her previous album but parallels can be drawn between tracks if you want to dig deeper - and us Swifties have been trained to dig deep. This time around her music takes more of an upswing than a haunting melancholy with tales about Hollywood stars coming home for the holidays (tis the damn season), a small town crime between friends (no body, no crime), and bandits falling in love (cowboy like me). She also uses a similar storytelling technique with heftier imagery sprinkled throughout the chorus and verses, and packing in the bridges with everything she’s got.
To describe the two albums together, I’d say folklore feels like a foggy winter morn. It’s an album of reflection and reminiscing about rage, euphoria, young love, and trying to find stability in the middle of jagged relationships and crazy times. It maintains a 1970s feel in a lot of ways like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, where her cadence blends in with the beat and one-of-a-kind melodies. Evermore, on the other hand, captures melancholy in the summer as it fades into fall, describing stories in the present moment rather than looking back with as much woe or angst. At first, it doesn't feel like a country album, but over time, it will become more obvious just how much it can be considered a more mature sibling to Red. Evermore might still maintain a running theme of unrequited love or broken relationships, but the rhythm allows the lyrics to mold to the beat or act as poetry over the music. The two together are a dynamo duo - it's only a question of which on you prefer.
Though the two share a lot of similarities, the biggest difference for me is how it's taken me longer for evermore to resonate. When folklore dropped, I was instantly emotional about several songs on the initial and subsequent listens. Even though my top 5 rankings are much the same, I don’t skip any tracks and even my least favorites have grown on me. It's a perfect album. That type of progress is a struggle with evermore. The themes of yearning for a loved one, the fundamental differences between two people that divides them, finding closure, etc. with self-recriminating insight starts to feel repetitive no matter how many poetic ways Taylor expresses herself. Half of the album become definite re-listens, while I don't seek out other songs or might skip halfway through them.
Swift and Dressner manages to produce a sound that is light on the ears as well as in-depth storytelling that makes you reconsider all of the different angles, and will certainly define the holiday era of the pandemic. And that's perhaps the hiccup evermore runs into - Taylor's so ahead of her own curve it becomes a sphere, where a lot of the tracks hit a comfortably catchy groove but don't land as surprisingly or as uniquely as folklore. In true companionship fashion, plenty of songs fit alongside each other but you'll left wondering how the runner-up compares to the original. While it's harmless to want more of a great thing, it doesn't mean it will be great itself.
My thoughts on the individual songs with a ranking of faves is below.
Similar to Cardigan, I think this is one of her strongest singles she’s ever released. I loved that the music video picks up where Cardigan left off and drew on other songs from folklore for the storyline and the lyrics. Its witchy vibes creates a magical opening and anticipation for the rest of the album.
On my first listen, I was not crazy about this and thought evermore would be in trouble after watching willow's music on a high. The story seemed too convoluted and hard to follow. It's starting to grow on me, but the harmony of voices for the bridge is the best part. I liked how she tied the gossip aspect of The Last Great American Dynasty to this character painfully becoming self-aware of how the public break-up and her mental illness casts her out from society. Some fans are calling this better than All Too Well, and I’d just have to say that’s a no for me.
Magazine stands, movies, tv shows, social media, etc. is potentially someone who's hair falls into place like dominoes. And Gold Rush has no qualms of letting you accept fantasizing a relationship with someone you have zero chances with. (*cough* Ryan Gosling *crying* lol). It wasn’t my favorite on a first listen, but it's had the biggest glow-up and comes across a sober version of Gorgeous. The heavenly intro dropping into the country beat with a dash of pop for the chorus is amazing. I could listen to it forever.
tis the damn season
It's a great song to go along with the holidays, especially this year with everyone cocooned away for the holidays vying to escape their hometown or catch up with someone they love. We can call it even / You can call me babe for the weekend / tis the damn season is in my head before I even wake up in the morning. I liked that this and Dorothea were the only confirmed -possibly queer - plots for Evermore. The storytelling was more palatable to follow than champagne problems on my first listen, and honestly, it’s crying for a lesbian Hallmark rom-com.
tolerate it –
As a track 5, my tears ricochet has a stronger delivery. I want to be more emotionally invested because I can relate to the character whose partner tolerates all of the best things they offer...but the rhythm is too stagnant and becomes a poem set to piano rather than a memorable ballad. I skip it halfway through because I'm bored. :/
no body no crime – featuring haim
Quite a few songs on evermore are mischievous. You could easily hear this on a country station or see this as a gripping vengeful small-town Big Little Lies spin-off. It’s just fun to listen to, and mostly reminds me of Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood or Goodbye Earl by The Dixie Chicks.
I have to mention though, I’m kind of disappointed with this track. If you love or have listened to Haim, you know how unique their sound is. But they're only background vocals here just like The Dixie Chicks were on Lover. I feel like the song itself fits Haim's style, but The National and Bon Iver have least three clear duets between these two albums (as well as Brendon Urie and Shawn Mendes for Lover)…and you could listen to this track and think they were anyone - sorry to say. It would be nice if she collaborated just as strongly with female artists.
I struggle with happiness the most. I absolutely love the opening - the lyrics paint an emotional picture all on their own to be a worthy track 5. And it reminds me of peace (my favorite song on folklore), but some of the phrasing fake niceties and my eyes leak acid rain doesn't fit. The song isn't meant to be a subject of happiness, but some phrases aren't fluid with the melody. If they had been re-worked, I would’ve liked this 10x more. But that opening - honey when I'm above the treees, I see this for what it is. UGHHHH.
After packing a lot of songs with a storyline, this goes back to simplicity, especially in the middle of the album. Everything about it just fits. Before evermore released when we just had the tracklist, I "claimed" this with champagne problems but I like this 10x more.
It works as a prequel to exile like the couple is reading all of the signs on the way to their official break-up. The duet with her and The National's baritone carries well over from Bon Iver’s voice. You can listen to it, but it's not a particular favorite. That similar lovelorn angst is an example of a companion piece that falls short of the original.
My absolute favorite track. The chorus is pure magic (sounds like it could fit into the universe of dorothea and tis the damn season) - Oh, goddamn/ My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand / Taking mine, but it's been promised to another. OMG. A lot of fans imagine this as a romance between two women in the early 19th or 20th century, and hell yesssss. HELLO Portrait of a Lady on Fire vibes.
cowboy like me
Just when I think the last song couldn’t get possibly more country, the next one offers something else the album is missing. The dreaminess of the beat makes you fall into a lull about the characters' whirlwind romance - you can truly hear this playing in an airport bar or imagine couples in the South using this as their wedding song. I don't see this as a straight-up relationship between two people, but as a metaphor of Taylor and her muse falling in love as bandits against the music industry. I'm pretty much on my own with that theory, and that's all right. It's nice to listen to.
long story short
The chorus taps into 2020 so perfectly - of how we'll look back on the insanity of the last year down the road - Long story short, It was a bad time, Long story short, I survived. But I'm not overly crazy about the song as a whole. It 's a catchy version of Paper Rings for Taylor to find more closure with everything that's happened since 2016, but I prefer the raw emotions from my tears ricochet, mad woman or hoax more.
The definite direct link to folklore with epiphany tapping into her grandfather’s service in World War II as inspiration. Not gonna lie, the instrumentals in the beginning reminds me of Baba O’ Reilly from The Who, which I’m obsessed with….so for the lyrics to turn out so soft and sweet messes with my emotions. I related to this song the most – I lost my grandmother on my mom’s side when I was a kid, and I always wonder what she would think of who I am now and how much my life would be different if she was still around. It's just a perfect love letter by Taylor for people who have lost someone.
I honestly just don’t know what she’s doing here. Why is she British and why does this sound like a wacked-out version of hoax? I'm fine with my spite / And my tears, and my beers and my candles are the best lyrics, but everything else comes out way too jilted. This is just not my cup of tea at all. I would’ve cut this and long story short, to be honest.
Similar to some songs on the album, the entire song will delve into the whole story Taylor is telling, but some of the verses or choruses are fragmented and hard to understand. That's kind of my main issue with evermore. It captures the depression and pain a lot of us have felt during the pandemic, but I always have to look up what this song means as I'm listening to it for some reason. I just didn't connect with this one as much as I would like and not sure I see this growing on me.
Bonus track: The tracks aren't widely released yet - I received my deluxe edition early. I can see why these are bonus tracks, but I think I’d also cut tolerate it, closure, long story short, or evermore and replace them with these.
right where you left me
Is it sad to say that I count how many times I've felt like a part of me was left behind somewhere trapped in a moment of time? Yeahhhh, this song is good. I love the lower register of her voice for the pre-chorus before it turns into an ethereal harmony for the chorus - it sounds like she's haunting the restaurant where Taylor or this character was left behind. I just feel the lyrics a lot.
it’s time to go
Taylor's often recognized as writing break-up songs, but I feel it's songs like these - affirming that it's brave to walk away from a situation or relationship that isn't good for you that makes her talent so much more than 'that girl-crazy obsessed pop star.' I mean - the chorus - That old familiar body ache / The snaps from the same little breaks in your soul / You know when it's time to go. That type of imagery with what she's trying to convey of just knowing when it's time to leave something that's not working out for you and having the courage to do it doesn't happen by osmosis. There are hints of references to Karlie, BMR, and Scooter, so she's still trying to figure out how to get closure but it's also generalized enough for everyone to see themselves as the narrator. I wish the strumming had more of an invisible string build-up, instead of a country-inspired twang with the guitar, but it's still wonderful overall. The parallel this and right where you left me of being forced to stay and making a choice to leave, especially at the end of a hectic year, is a wonderful way to close out this album...or let us get ready for the threequel if the theories are true.
top five: ivy, gold rush, dorothea, tis the damn season, it's time to go (or happiness or marjorie lol)
middle of the pack: willow, right where you left me, cowboy like me, no body no crime, coney island, champagne problems
least favorites: evermore, closure, long story short, tolerate it