Quarantine, most likely, hasn’t been the most productive time for most of us. It’s very easy to fall into a loop of just relaxing without getting any real work done. The same can not be said for singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, who, in quarantine alone, wrote and released two complete albums. “folklore,” Swift’s eighth studio album was released as a surprise on July 24 and received waves of positive critical reception as well as five Grammy nominations including Album of the Year and Song of the Year for its lead single, “cardigan.” Additionally, a documentary about the making of the album in which Swift, along with producers Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, performed the songs on the album released on Disney+ on Nov. 25. To any ordinary person, putting out an album and a documentary would be more than enough work for one year, but Taylor Swift is no ordinary person.
On Dec. 10, Swift announced she’d be releasing yet another album, a sister album to “folklore” titled “evermore.” In a post she made to her social media accounts, she wrote that “we just couldn’t stop writing songs. … It feels like we were standing on the edge of the folklorian woods and had a choice: to turn and go back or to travel further into the forest of this music.”
“evermore” keeps up some of the cottagecore, indie vibes of “folklore” while expanding onto it with some more upbeat, modern sounds in several songs. On its own, it sounds like a classic Taylor Swift album, with elements akin to earlier albums such as “1989” and “Reputation.” However, when considered as the sister album and companion to “folklore,” it pales in comparison.
The album opens on lead single “willow,” which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the songs. In its music video, “willow” continues the story of the “cardigan” video, highlighting the connection between the two albums. The guitar on the instrumental track coupled with Swift’s dreamy vocals gives the song a sort of ethereal fairy-tale feeling. A catchy melody and laid-back sound make this song easily one of the best on the album.
Lyrically, songs on this album do not disappoint, especially in the case of track two: “champagne problems.” The song is full of metaphors and imagery that Swift displayed clearly throughout “folklore.” A more simple melody gives way to showcase Swift’s songwriting talent with lines like “Your Midas touch on the Chevy door / November flush and your flannel cure” and “Your mom’s ring in your pocket / My picture in your wallet / Your heart was glass, I dropped it.” The bridge of this song holds up to the power of other Taylor Swift bridges from songs like “All Too Well” or “illicit affairs.” It gives you that feeling that makes you want to yell it at the top of your lungs.
Certain songs off the album stand out as their own, unique sound, one, in particular, being “’tis the damn season,” the fourth track on the record. It has its own, yet still cohesive sound and a melody that gets stuck in your head. Others, such as “dorothea” and “marjorie,” sound like the second, less impressive versions of their counterparts on “folklore.” “dorothea” seems to be the less impactful “betty” while “marjorie,” a song about Swift’s grandmother, is the less moving equivalent of “epiphany,” a song partially about her grandfather.
Not all of the songs are quite as memorable, as certain songs like “happiness,” “cowboy like me” and “gold rush” fall between the cracks. These songs aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re too similar in sound to other songs on the album without giving anything to set them apart. When following an album like “folklore” in which most every song feels unique and important, having multiple songs that just don’t hit the mark can negatively affect the overall view of the record.
In terms of cohesiveness, it’s quite a mixed bag. Several songs, such as “ivy” and “tolerate it” seem like they’re straight off “folklore” with their melodies and lyrics fitting in perfectly with the style. A few songs do stray jarringly far from the mood. “long story short,” the 12th track on the album, sounds like it came right off of Swift’s pop-heavy album, “1989,” and track 14, “closure,” has an (intentionally or not) messy instrumental track that sounds incredibly out of place. While certain songs off “folklore” did stray slightly from the main mood, “evermore” does so in a much more disruptive fashion that makes the connection throughout the album weaker.
“evermore” includes three different collaboration songs, “no body, no crime (ft. HAIM),” “coney island (ft. The National)” and “evermore (ft. Bon Iver),” who she also collaborated with on “folklore” with “exile.” The collaboration between the female voices of Swift and HAIM on “no body, no crime” make for one of the best songs on the album, one that takes the fictional storytelling aspect of “folklore” and turns it up to 100 in a song discussing murders and true crime through a country music style. The male singers on “coney island” and “evermore” on the other hand don’t blend nearly as well with Swift’s voice. The National’s verses on “coney island” sound extremely harsh and clash with Swift’s gentle, whimsical vocals in the song. While having Bon Iver on for another collaboration with Swift is a nice callback to “folklore,” the song doesn’t have the same power as their duet on the previous album.
Overall, the album includes several standout songs, my favorites being “willow,” “champagne problems,” “’tis the damn season” and “no body, no crime,” but as a whole, it in no way stands anywhere close to “folklore.” And that’s okay. “folklore” is probably Swift’s best album of them all, in terms of sound, lyrics, cohesiveness, music, and all of the other marks. “evermore” may be a solid album, but “folklore” is too tough of an act to follow.