Album Review: folklore // Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift may have just gone back to the woods and created not only one of her best albums to date but possibly the best album of the last five years. Can this woman do no wrong? Written with a more seemingly delicate touch, Swift’s eighth studio album folklore has not only hit the nail on the head, it’s taken the time to build a whole damn house with it. Released on the 24th of July less than 24 hours after her initial announcement that this record even existed, the surprise launch is a first for Swift, who traditionally likes a slow and teaser filled build-up to any new album release.

Produced and largely co-written by The National’s Aaron Dessner, the 16 tracks that make up the run time of just over an hour flow almost effortlessly into each other. All confidently telling a different part of the same sad tale, all the while evoking the feeling that a bittersweet undercurrent flows alongside the music.

Swift’s fans across the globe have tended to over-analyse the megastars lyricism for years now, looking for hidden meanings and implications that may or may not have ever existed. However, there may be less need for this than ever before with Swift herself admitting the album was born out of her imagination, posting on social media: “In isolation, my imagination has run wild and this album is a result”.

The best tracks on the album just dance around in your head like they have a life of their own, the biggest examples of these for me are ‘the last great american dynasty’, ‘the 1’ and ‘mirrorball’, with their light and dainty instrumental juxtaposed by the deep meaningful words sung on top of them. Just another way this album is exquisitely layered. 

Apart from Swift, three of the other main people credited on the album are the aforementioned Aaron Dessner, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who duets on track ‘exile’, and the mysterious William Bowery. A man or woman fans have been trying to work out the true identity of for many years with most suspecting Bowery to be Swift’s brother or her long-time boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. With him being credited as co-writer on two of the better songs on the album ‘exile’ and ‘betty’, whoever this man/woman is they clearly only enhance the ever-evolving Swift’s work. 

The one weak point – and it’s not necessarily with the record itself – is with her knack for picking the worst song on her albums to be released as the first single. With the video to ‘cardigan’ already up on YouTube, it just seemed like a rushed choice in an otherwise faultless 24 hours. That is not to say it’s a bad song, but I feel it tries a little hard at times and comes up short. 

folklore proves if nothing else, Taylor Swift is untouchable when it comes to telling stories through music. Unlike her other seven albums this feels more focused, purposeful even. The fact she created it in lockdown in less than four months in the midst of a global pandemic, when she should have been on her Lover world tour is astounding. It definitely makes me feel a little bad about the keyboard I never got round to purchasing a little over four months ago…

Overall, I cannot say enough good things about it. I admit it didn’t have me on the first listen as it was jarring, feeling so different to her previous records. Which in hindsight makes sense for a woman who has spent much of her career reinventing herself, all the while making It look easy. folklore is another triumph and a bar raiser for those looking to follow it, and to them, I say good luck because anybody coming for Swift’s crown may be too late because it doesn’t seem like this queen is abdicating her throne any time soon.

Rating: 9.5/10

Words by Timothy Goode

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