While many have spent their year in quarantine losing motivation, Taylor Swift is renewed and recharged, dropping “evermore” Dec. 11, her second album in six months.
“evermore” expands on the subdued, lyrically focused “folklore,” offering 15 brand-new tracks to Swift’s packed discography. Like with “folklore,” the album is primarily produced by Aaron Dessner, of “The National,” and Jack Antonoff.
Swift has flown in many directions throughout her career, but with “evermore,” she’s content to stay where she is. In a letter penned to her fans, Swift dubbed “evermore” the “sister album” to “folklore.”
On the heels of the smash success of “folklore” — which has been nominated for “Album of the Year” at the 2021 Grammy Awards — releasing another record so soon was a major risk. But Swift has honed in her lyrical mastery once again with “evermore,” a solid companion piece.
Lead single “willow” is a strong intro into the album. The track evolves from the “folklore” sound with an eclectic mix of instruments, including a flute, electric guitar and violin, creating a cacophony of peace. “willow” is the song one would want to hear while floating down a stream on a magical lily pad, a pure dream.
The album is a bit hazy upon first listen, less structured than its predecessor. Whereas Swift seemed to be shooting for a Grammy with “folklore,” “evermore” is an unfettered, freer-flowing experiment.
The albums represent two sides of the same coin. While “folklore” was a forest walk, “evermore” is more reminiscent of sitting in a cabin with the fireplace blazing.
Fans of Swift’s past Antonoff collaborations will love the crisp, elegant “gold rush.” The fantastical hook is one of the album’s few traditionally catchy choruses.
Swift follows up the cutesy sound perfected in “invisible string” (of “folklore”) with “ivy.” The track has an immaculate hook, with great guitar instrumentals. It’s a worthy follow-up to the metaphor of “invisible string,” describing love taking physical root in the form of ivy.
“Oh, I can’t / Stop you putting roots in my dreamland,” Swift sings romantically. Swift can get moody and melodramatic, but she’s right at home with love songs.
The album ventures into interesting production directions that contrast with its predecessor. Dessner-produced “long story short” manages to combine a more traditionally upbeat pop sound with the earthy “evermore” sound, creating an initial standout.
“And I fell from the pedestal / Right down the rabbit hole / Long story short, it was a bad time,” Swift sings with a sense of whimsicality. The track harkens back to the lovestruck days of Swiftian past, sonically reminiscent of “Holy Ground” (off her album “Red”). The unexpectedly upbeat track sneaks into the album with a glimmering purpose.
The biggest production swing comes in “closure,” the only track to feature different producers than “folklore.” The PC-music production inspiration sounds reminiscent of Imogen Heap and offers a hint at Swift venturing out from familiarity.
Swift veered away from the meta nature of her prior albums with “folklore,” exposing her vulnerabilities while escaping the tabloid-inducing discussions. With “evermore,” Swift cements herself in the abstract.
The Taylor Swift cinematic universe got a new edition in “no body, no crime,” which features fellow Grammy-nominee HAIM. The track tells an intricate plot of a man killing his wife, leading her friend to seek justice by killing him.
The crime-drama is a highlight of the album. Swift fires on all cylinders with the country storytelling and atmospheric soundscape. HBO’s “The Undoing” can move over — Swift is here with the murder mystery of the year. Who knows what made Swift want to write “no body, no crime,” but she most certainly avenged her fictional friend with this masterpiece.
The track, solely penned by Swift, is a lyrical standout. “Este’s been losing sleep / Her husband’s acting different / And it smells like infidelity,” she sings in the opening verse. The blunt nature of the track works with the storytelling, serving “Desperate Housewives”-esque, salacious suburban drama.
Swift’s country roots shine with “cowboy like me.” “And you asked me to dance, / But I thought, ‘dancing is a dangerous game,’” Swift sings in the first verse. The track is lowkey yet powerful with its calming production. The instrumentals and harmonies help “cowboy like me” excel in its haunting beauty.
After two albums of this dreary, forest motif, some tracks simply feel redundant, but no true skip exists — though “coney island,” featuring “The National,” may receive less repeat listens than “happiness.”
Following years of reinvention, “evermore” is an album made without pretense. With “folklore” topping several year-end lists and pegged to win big at the Grammys, Swift has reached a pinnacle in her career. “evermore” doesn’t challenge her artistry as much as some of her previous works, and that’s a good thing.
The album is a well-deserved victory lap of a woman who has flown in every different direction — sometimes inauthentically (cough, “Lover,” cough) — finally taking a moment to make what she loves, not what she thinks others will.
But please Taylor, move on from this sound now. If there’s one thing history has proven time and time again, it’s that sequels typically fail to live up to the original. Let’s not play with fire by risking ruining it all with a trilogy — this isn’t “Star Wars.”