Taylor Swift’s ‘folklore’ is a cozy embrace of storytelling and mellow moods

With a gentle piano intro, subtle drums and strumming guitars Taylor Swift’s laid back lockdown album commences with the 1 as she begins a series of recollections, stories and love songs.

Spawning sixteen tracks the record is a warm embrace, homely, like a well the worn cardigan that she sings about in the lead single, immediately familiar. With her songs Swift paints nostalgic pictures of the past singing about kissing in cars and lost lovers, filling our need for memories of a time when the world was less complicated.

Take a look at the video for Cardigan

Three tracks in a we reach the last great american dynasty and Swift launches into storytelling mode with a tune that is reminiscent of Edie Brickell, Joni Mitchell or Natalie Merchant. She tells the story of a woman, gossip, a marriage, socialites,disruption and small town judgement,  it’s a narrative that is not completely clear, but we can fill in the blanks and make our own story.

Bon Iver, aka Justin Vernon, who is famous for heading to a cabin in the woods to write his tunes, joins Swift for the albums only vocal collaboration. On exile his deep and soaring voice is a perfect counterpoint to Swift’s more gentle and sweet delivery.

The album’s main collaborator though is Aaron Dessner from The National who co-wrote nine of the albums tracks. Swift’s regualar collaborator Jack Antonoff is her cowriter for the majority of the remaining songs, although there is also my tears ricochet  penned solely by Swift.

The songs seamlessly flow into each other, there’s no sudden changes in tempo, style or mood, it’s a contemplative series of songs that take you on a peaceful and relaxing journey.

On seven Swift takes us into the forest that occupies the albums cover and promotional images as she sings “please picture me in the trees” that she hid in when she was a seven year old girl. The delivery of the song is one of the album’s most pop moments, but it stays true to esthetic of folky charm.

With sixteen songs the album clocks in at over an hour, it’s an hefty artistic offering from the singer who in recent years has shredded her country roots and embraced pop and electro sounds. These songs have no catchy lines, suggestions of calming down or shaking it off. Instead mesmerizingly beautiful songs that demand repetitive listening.

As we delve further into the record there is change, the songs become more lusciously textured. epiphany has the gentle hum of strings as Swift sings a lullaby like melody. betty is filled with harmonica, plucked guitar and suddenly Swift is dropping the f-bomb in a sing-a-long. It’s a perfectly placed tune, just in case you’d fallen into a magical trance over the last thirteen tunes.

folklore is an unexpected move from Swift, and it’s a welcomed choice to make an album which is filled with beauty, storytelling and beauty.

Graeme Watson, images by Beth Garrabrant

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