Taylor Swift is one of those rare artists who can reinvent themselves time and time again, go back to her roots and simply just release whatever style of music she sees fit. It seems Swift is pretty much capable of releasing great music under any genre and I trust her talents and judgements enough to know that she would never release anything that she didn’t feel or know she could excel in. Very few artists and in fact women in the music industry have had the success and ability to do this – Madonna and Kylie Minogue spring to mind from my era of artists who have successfully dabbled in genres and pulled them off.
Swift is a whole new league though in many ways. A woman from such a young age who just knows what works and knows how to be relatable and how to connect with her fans, she is just instantly likeable and whilst she will say herself that she is not the strongest singer, (even though her voice is uniquely beautiful) her voice is so inviting and perfect in its own way that we don’t really care that she hasn’t got the vocals of Mariah Carey but then who has? It’s more to do with the way she sings her songs and of course the writing itself as her lyrics and music are some of the best in the world. Whether you are a fan of Taylor or not, not many artists can write as she does and just come out with tune after tune and if she wasn’t that great, then the amount of artists that praise her songwriting and wish to work with her would be minimal. I remember Imogen Heap saying something along the lines of agreeing to writing with Swift but assuming all her songs were written for her until she turned up with the track Clean from the 1989 album pretty much already written and just needing a bit of her help to finish it. Liz Rose, a regular co-writer with Swift often states how the songs she has written with her are already close to being a finished song but just need tweaking.
Most of us came to love Taylor Swift during her country music days, others via her pop days and fans are fans of both styles but to hear that a Folk styled album with possible Country/Americana roots was to be a surprise release album was something us Swifties have dreamt about for a long time. Despite Debut, Fearless, Speak Now and Red being more country and the latter leaning more towards pop and with 1989, Reputation and Lover being pretty full on pop, Taylor isn’t exactly a stranger to the folk stylings of music as she released the song Safe and Sound with The Civil Wars for the motion picture soundtrack to The Hunger Games. A song that I would argue is one of her best and brings me back to the point that this woman can write pretty much anything.
So what do we think of Folklore? Now this review is based upon first listen so later I will be enjoying listening to it and over and over again and trying to decode whom or what the lyrics are about. Some I may guess now, others perhaps not.
The album starts off with a slight R&B vibe much like Lover does with I Forgot That You Existed but this album starts with the 1 – at first I thought it was going to break into an acoustic version of Mr Wendall by Arrested Development but alas it didn’t. This is a great start to the album and instantly gets you hooked knowing that you are in for a good time for the rest of the album.
the cardigan – a blend of Folk/Folktronica/Trip hop/electronica this track is really quite mesmerising and makes you really listen to the lyrics. More hardcore swifties will be better at figuring out who songs are about than me although I am a die hard swiftie. I love the lyric Peter losing Wendy.
the last great american dynasty – a more upbeat tune giving it a happier beat and reminiscent to music of The Postal Service albeit very small but also has a Counting Crows vibe to it. If Adam Duritz listens to this album I think this would be a favourite of his. Whilst the song could be seen as being about her parties and life in her Rhode Island home, I did wonder if it could be about a past owner? I mean every house has its stories right? If walls could talk and all that and every mansion must tell some great tales. Turns out the house belonged to a Rebekah West Harkness who was an oil Heiress. As lyrics state: Bill was the heir to the Standard Oil name and money.
Rebekah was also referred to as Betty which we have a song on the album called Betty and a limited edition album cover titled Betty’s Garden. Rebekah also loved ballet and was a patron of the Joffrey ballet which is in the lyrics: And blew through the money on the boys and the ballet
The town seems to be old money and houses passed down to generations so when someone moves in from new money and brings parties and changes, I guess it isn’t taken lightly. This is definitely another favourite track and another song that proves Taylor’s lyrical genius and master ability to tell stories so perfectly. Reminds me of The Lucky One in the way that it’s told.
more info on Rebekah and things about the house can be found here
exile (feat Bon Iver) – Well as a fan of both Taylor and Bon Iver I was very excited for this song and it did not disappoint. The indie folk, folktronica vibes are sensational and highly addictive. I love a Bon Iver collab, especially the stuff he does with Francis and The Lights and this is on par with that. The piano intro is simply stunning and I love how it starts with Bon Iver’s vocals. The breathtaking ballad screams Taylor Swift and whilst not melodically it in some way reminds me of The Last Time from Red. The two voices blend beautifully together and the simple piano accompaniment throughout is simply gorgeous – imagine hearing this song live? How Taylor creates theses sensational ballads time and time again is astonishing. I love the chorus, and the song in general is so heartbreaking and pulls at your heartstrings. She is the master of putting people’s thoughts about heartache to words. So far this is a fast favourite.
my tears ricochet – another song I would love to hear live. Taylor delivers such a great bridge in this song. She always does though right? I like the backing vocals she adds and the lyrics again are mesmerising and heart felt. The churchy vibe is subtle but essential to making the track so breathtaking.
mirrorball Is a folktronic tune that has a hypnotic/dreamy way about it. I think it will start as one of those songs that won’t necessarily be everyone’s favourite but the more they/we listen to it the more it will be loved. Has Taylor every given us a song that is simply just an album filler? No, so this won’t be one either.
seven – has a more traditional folk feel to it with that ghosty, whispery style to it that makes many folk songs so beautiful. The instrumentation is gorgeous and very subtle. We need an acoustic tour and this song has to be on the set list, well they all do really. I love that a lot of these lyrics are the titles of her limited album releases such as In The Trees and In The Weeds. Thought really does go into everything. This song in particular I think is what many of us were hoping for when we heard we were getting an album titled folklore. It really is melodically and lyrically stunning.
august – a catchy tune from the start with a very spellbinding trance to it. Sweet vocals with an adorable tone. Meet Me Behind The Mall is another lyric that is one of her limited album cover titles. I adore these little gifts she leaves us in her songs and albums and will no doubt help people choose which cover they will want to buy even more unless have purchased all 8 like me ha!
this is me trying – A song with Electronica vibes as well as Folktronica (like most of the album) This has one of those distant echoey vocals to it that Taylor has done before and always does so well. You can really feel the acoustic vibes to it. The emotion in Swifts vocals are sublime in this and she really delivers her vocal range as well as emotion in this song. I do like her her whispery, breathy vocals in songs.
illicit affairs – a very delightful acoustic tune which Taylor always does best. This is why Soon You’ll Get Better is one of people’s favourites off of Lover and Never Grow Up off of Speak Now and so on because it’s how we know Taylor best really. This song is perfect in its simplicity like I have said about many of her songs. I do think these types of tracks tell her stories best and show off her ability to tell a story so believably in the way she sings and almost make the lyrics jump out of the pages/out of the music. Clandestine meetings (Lyrics from the song) is another limited album title. This actually made me cry.
invisible string – another gorgeous intro with thanks this time to the acoustic strings. This song has very strong Folk/Americana vibes.
mad woman – a stunning piano ballad. Taylor’s vocals start off deeper in this and the song has a slight Lana Del Rey vibe to it. Like most of the album and often in old folk stylings it is again haunting and quite cinematic. Lyrically a very folky tune. This is one I can imagine people covering a lot as is so lovely to sing a long to as well as listen to.
epiphany – an orchestral intro with a melodic trance which is very calming. The kind of music I want to listen to to chill out to. Sleepy in a great way, wonderfully serene. A song seemingly about Coronavirus . The music and words are so haunting. “Hold your hand through plastic now”.
betty – A song I was very intrigued about due to one of the album cover titles. This song has a country/folk style to it with great use of the harmonica. Another firm favourite, this song is so much fun. Hard to know who the song is about as Betty is who we talked about in the song The Last Great American Dynasty. It does appear to be about a conflict with a fellow school student but of course may not necessarily be about her experience. A song about regret and wanting to be forgiven but should she? Also it appears to be about a lover and a nice mention to the cardigan again. This song is exactly the reason why I love Taylor Swift so much. The song is where the limited album track title Betty’s Garden comes from.
peace – an anthemic tune that if you can imagine in a live setting, would really translate well as is very atmospheric. That moment in a concert where everyone is silent and shining a light.
hoax – seems to already be a fan favourite and I plan to do more research into the fan theories as they are always interesting and usually spot on. A great song to end a spectacular album with. Again with a stunning piano intro. Taylor writes about heartbreak so perfectly as if the lyrics are written specifically for you. This is one of the reasons she is so successful as she just gets it and isn’t afraid to be so open. Something that seems should be so simple but isn’t, Swift knows how to write those moments and make them so relatable. The strings on this song are gorgeous and contributed by Rob Moose I believe who tweeted his words on his part of the album.
As previously stated, this is a review upon first listen and without any real research into the songs. This has been a difficult review to write for many reasons. One being, how on earth can you truly capture a Taylor Swift record especially such as this and do it the justice it deserves? The album is flawless as most of hers are and I do enjoy the fact that there is no typical gimmicky stand out track like past albums have, although I like those songs, this album had no place for anything such as that. It’s also hard to review because despite saying above how she can constantly reinvent herself and that none of Taylor’s albums are the same, they all still have that Taylor stamp to it which makes perfect sense to swifties and is why we trust her completely with any musical direction that she chooses to take. Swift is a genre within herself so anything she does seems to work.
Folklore is so soothing and brings a sense of serenity. You can’t help but be enthralled by the music, the lyrics and the vocals and every detail has been so expertly thought through. I look forward to hearing fellow artists thoughts and if any covers come from it. For example Ruston Kelly’s version and love for All Too Well, Ryan Hurd’s cover of False God and Keith Urban’s cover of Lover and his constant gushing about her songwriting and his love for Cornelia Street.
This album will be on repeat for a while now. I can’t wait for the physical albums. If you haven’t already seen, she will be releasing 8 different covers all of which are titled after song lyrics from the album, some of which we have mentioned above and will all have different album covers. These will be released on CD and Vinyl and one in Cassette.
The deluxe albums include:
16 songs + bonus song “the lakes”
1 of 8 unique, collectible covers
1 of 8 unique, collectible back covers
1 of 8 unique disc photos
1 of 8 collectible album lyric booklets (each version contains 5 unique photos and artwork)
Will you be mad like me and buy them all? They are only available till 11.59 on July 30th. Much like the Me exclusives, these won’t be available again I doubt.