Not content with already releasing one of the year’s best albums, Taylor Swift, music’s busiest businesswoman, somehow found time between re-recording her old material and unveiling a Disney+ special to bring us ‘Evermore’—her ninth studio album.
‘Evermore’ is, in Swift’s own words, a sister record to ‘Folklore’, which just five months prior marked her return to a more guitar-based, acoustic sound than her previous few works.
And much like with ‘Folklore’, the journey through ‘Evermore’ begins with a whimsical visual through the woods; this time by way of the song ‘Willow’, which picks up where ‘Cardigan’ left off. Seated atop that same rustic brown piano, Swift realises that she still holds the same
invisible glowing string, and chooses to take another trip into the Folklorian woods. Musically, the song doesn’t stray too far from ‘Folklore’, and also plays like a sequel to her folky classic ‘Safe and Sound’.
Where ‘Evermore’ differs is with the template Swift established on ‘Folklore’—one she adhered to with sparkling consistency. This time around, the singer both invites tropes and melodies from albums past, and takes the folk further into experimental territory. ‘Tolerate It’, for instance, is reminiscent of ‘1989’ highlight ‘Wildest Dreams’, showcasing Swift’s gorgeous falsetto. ‘Long Story Short’ similarly throws it back to the 80s synthpop we saw on ‘1989’. The twinkling ‘Gold Rush’ is a fairytale gone wrong not unlike those we saw through a doe-eyed Swift in ‘Speak Now’ and ‘Fearless’.
Beyond borrowing from her songs of the past, the singer also covers new ground with ‘Evermore’. Taylor Swift can now safely add “sleuth” to her long list of achievements, as the haunting ‘No Body, No Crime’ is not only an album highlight, but a murder mystery in a song that will go down as one of Swift’s most enjoyable works. With a little help from HAIM, who themselves have had a highly successful year, ‘No Body, No Crime’ marks a return to Swift’s country roots, in a recount of infidelity à la The Chicks’ ‘Gaslighter’.
And Swift isn’t too afraid to get a little more experimental on this record, too. Industrial drums introduce ‘Closure’ that make for a discordant affair; ‘Cowboy Like Me’ sees Taylor Swift sing the blues; ‘Marjorie’, a tribute to Swift’s grandmother, features the latter’s operatic vocals over lush strings, all in line with the album’s theme of longing and sentimentality.
But it is on the closing title track that Swift’s intentions become clear. “And I was catching my breath / Staring out an open window / Catching my death,” her lyrics rarely get too dark, but on ‘Evermore’ Swift bares her scars (“Gray November / I’ve been down since July”), accompanied by Bon Iver. She’s been candid about the pandemic’s impact on her mental health, and here she immortalises this weird period in our lives. As she mentioned in the album’s explainer, making ‘Evermore’, much like with ‘Folklore’, functioned as an escape for Swift and her collaborators—and a salve from their metaphorical cabin to ours. She’s not out of the woods just yet, but she’s drawing contentment from making music in her Folklorian fantasy, moving away from her big pop productions in favour of subdued indie/folk that allow her vocals and songwriting to shine. And for Swift, as her albums of 2020 have proven, less truly is evermore.