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.