Happy end of the longest accelerated semester ever! You made it, and now there’s a new Taylor Swift album here to help you celebrate. Released less than five months after the exceptional “folklore,” “evermore'' is its younger but wiser “sister” album and Swift’s most mature production yet. “evermore'' presents 15 new songs with stories that continue “folklore”’s work to blur the lines between biography and fiction — only this time, Swift’s characters navigate love and loss from later stages in life.
As per folklorian etiquette, this album will send you reeling emotionally. Upbeat tracks such as “gold rush” and “long story short” join the ranks of Taylor Swift songs fit for skip-dancing around your bedroom and singing into your hair brush — they capture warmth despite the cold weather. Meanwhile, the record’s sad songs proceed to punch you repeatedly in the stomach. Swift has written plenty of songs about heartbreak, but before “evermore” she has never managed this much nuance. “tolerate it,” a particularly grueling track, documents a doting lover whose efforts go unseen and underappreciated. Despite recognizing the relationship’s imbalance, the lover pleads still — “If it's all in my head tell me now / Tell me I've got it wrong somehow.” Two tracks later in “happiness,” Swift sings from a unique state of simultaneous grief, gratitude and guilt — she even refers to her ex as a “good man,” which might be a first in Swiftian discography.
Essential to this emotional complexity is producer Aaron Dessner, whose collaborative genius helped shape “folklore.” He is back on “evermore” to ensure Swift’s folk-pop love affair endures, and this time his band, the National, gets a feature on “coney island” — a stormy track that undoubtedly falls into the stomach punch category. Among the other featured artists are Bon Iver and HAIM. Bon Iver, who collaborated on the “folklore” track, “exile,” is back for “evermore”’s equally pensive title-track, while HAIM features on “no body, no crime,” Swift’s inevitable take on The Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” — or, if 2010s female country star is more your love language, Carrie Underwood’s “Two Black Cadillacs.”
Country music influences carry over into the back-to-back tracks “ivy” and “cowboy like me.” Although neither song is an album standout, both embody what is impressive about “evermore.” By layering moody piano and synthesizers over top of twangy, 2006 Taylor Swift era guitar and fiddle, these songs’ fastidious production manages to sound stripped down.
The album’s most obvious standout is the stunning “marjorie,” a tribute to Swift’s grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, who passed away in 2003. Finlay was a singer herself and is credited with backing vocals on the track, which is uncoincidentally number 13 on the album, Swift’s favorite number. To feel the song’s full effect, watch the lyrical video, which pieces together footage from Finlay’s life and visually verifies that “What died didn’t stay dead.”
Among other “evermore” standouts are “dorothea” and “‘tis the damn season,” two tracks that tell both sides of the same story. “dorothea” is the “betty” of “evermore” — through dreamy, drawn out vowels, the track gives voice to a hometown-bound ex-lover reminiscing about days spent with Dorothea, a girl who left town to chase her Hollywood dreams but returns home for the holidays in “‘tis the damn season.” Both songs beautifully exemplify how Swift’s most impressive power remains her ability to transport us to a mystical land, a quaint small town, a somewhere that, oftentimes, is literally just Pennsylvania.
In all of its wintry warmth, “evermore'' is the deep breath — or, maybe the long exhale — we have all been holding in. It has been a tough couple of months, so let yourself feel that hurt. Light a candle, make some tea and let Taylor Swift do the rest.