In Review: Taylor Swift - folklore

Released with a surprising lack of commotion, folklore features some of Swifts most unadorned and mature work yet.
Posted: 27 July 2020 Words: Jess Edwards

It's been less than a year since the release of Lover, and at the end of last week with less than twenty-four hours notice, Taylor Swift returned with folklore, a laudable string of heartbreaking reveries. 

folklore is Swift's eighth album and a prolific response to her time in isolation. Working closely with musical favourites including The National's Aaron Dessner, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and long-time collaborator Jack Antonoff, the latest full-length sees the thirty-year-old star undergo a full indie-folk makeover; however unknowingly longed for, the sonic chemistry between Swift and Dessner is unblemished. Meanwhile, the Bon Iver collaboration 'exile' exposes a slow-burning and intimate melancholic affair that leads to a alluringly poignant climax, delicately pronounced by a lush string arrangement. 

Taking to social media, Swift has acknowledged her atypical approach to releasing the album, expressing how she saw the global situation as a reminder that "Nothing is guaranteed." A step away from the bold, competitive nature of Taylor's previous pop ventures, folklore is seemingly her most mature and unadorned collection yet. Derived from sequences of imagery, the album depicts visions that piqued Swift's curiosity and became fully-fledged stories of their own with both familiar and unfamiliar characters. "The lines between fantasy and reality blur and the boundaries between the truth and fiction become almost indiscernible," explained Swift, "picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history, and memory. I've told these stories to the best of my ability with all the love, wonder, and whimsy they deserve. Now it's up to you to pass them down."

Opening with 'the 1,' we're introduced to folklore through a contemplative window that explores the idea of a life with the one who got away. It's Dessner's instilled musical fractures that welcome a palette of tender vibrations prevalent on eleven of the record's whopping sixteen tracks, which close with the gratifying restraint of a second-person deplore of a failed relationship in the emotional articulations of final track 'hoax.' 

Paired with an Alice in Wonderland-esque music video (directed by Swift herself) appears standout 'cardigan', a song about "a lost romance and why young love is often fixed so permanently within our memories", whilst 'mirrorball' is devastatingly beautiful in its presentation, displaying an abundance of lush harmonies that cradle Taylor's breathy singing of infatuation and self-deformation to suit the needs of a relationship: "I want you to know / I'm a mirrorball / I can change everything about me to fit in." 

Interlaced with the emotional diligence of the album is a series of nostalgic reflections embraced within brooding instrumentals. From the breathtaking simplicities of love song 'invisible string' to the tale of an ill-fated summer romance in 'august' and the lucid reminiscence of high school regret in 'Betty'; Folklore's gothic notations represent what could be Swift's best album to date. 


Folklore is out now.


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