Taylor Swift – Evermore
What’s more surprising than a secret lockdown record from one of the world’s biggest artists dropping with less than a day’s notice? A second one, just months later. For many, 2020 has blurred the boundaries of time and brought about the unexpected; this phenomenon seems to have worked wonders for Taylor Swift’s songwriting prowess. Evermore is the “sister album” of critically-acclaimed Folklore and instead of entering a new era, the singer reunites with previous collaborators to deliver a similar indie-folk sound to fans who wanted more. With stadium tours now a distant, hazy memory, Swift navigates today’s uncertainty by finding solace in music and delving deeper into the same woods she stumbled across earlier this year, returning with 17 shining new songs.
With the defiant, “I come back stronger than a 90s trend”, it doesn’t feel like the artist has been away at all. “Strong” is an apt summary. The acoustic, piano-laced mellow moods are back, alongside husky tones and almost whispered falsetto. However, despite familiar musical patterns, the boundaries are pushed slightly further – from genre expansion to uncharacteristic time signatures – as Swift demonstrates her growing maturity as a musician. Like others, opener Willow is familiar but different: a thoughtful and acoustic sound, only this time incorporating syncopation. Ivy ostensibly sounds like the previous number Invisible String with its banjos, but now with even more dreamscape. Perhaps the freedom of Folklore has given the pop star the unapologetic power to experiment more. Gold Rush is another example, combining harmonies and keys with a heavier beat and synth-pop influence that wouldn’t go amiss on a Lana del Rey work, as well as the slightly bluesy Cowboy Like Me and almost psychedelic Marjorie, a spine-tingling tribute to her grandmother featuring her operatic vocals…yet they all still fall neatly under the Evermore branches. There are also tracks that venture back to the songwriter’s country roots, like the satisfyingly scheming murder-mystery No Body, No Crime, a fun highlight featuring HAIM.
Once again, magic lies in the richness of storytelling and it may need several listens to fully grasp.This time, protagonists include a Hollywood star and recent divorcee, plus the Blank Space mad girlfriend returns in Champagne Problems. It turns out that Swift has been taking on personas for years and these character studies continue to evolve, paying tribute to literary classics such as The Great Gatsby. With lyrical poetry to uncover, this is new craftsmanship, not just Folklore’s leftover material. It’s self-reflective too, forthright about pain and the unknown. In case you were wondering what comes next: “I can’t face reinvention, I haven’t met the new me yet” is the vocalist’s direct shutdown.
It may be less distinct than its predecessor, but Evermore is a timelessly impressive sequel. The collaborations and harmonies with Bon Iver and The National work masterfully, with more alt-rock exploration and a non-polished finish. Minimalist and escapist, it’s perfect for winter listening whilst wrapped up in a blanket drinking hot chocolate. This record, which arrived like an early Christmas present, is an unexpected but welcome way to spend the end of the year.
Photo: Beth Garrabrant
Evermore is released on 11th December 2020. For further information or to order the album visit Taylor Swift’s website here.
Watch the video for Willow here: