“Evermore” Album Review

Daphne Davies

In a pandemic that has put  thousands into quarantine with an abundance of spare time, no musician has been more productive than Taylor Swift. Less than five months after the release of her ninth album, “Folklore,” another surprise release, “Evermore,” arrived Dec. 10.

Produced by the same creative team as “Folklore,” “Evermore” is both a foray deeper into the mystical forest painted by the escapist “Folklore” and a return to Swift’s country roots and pop persona.

“Evermore” falls short  of “Folklore” due to its overlap between genres and lack of standout songs, but Swift compensates with her vocal performance and powerful narrative and imagery.

In her Instagram announcement of the album, Swift said “Evermore” was “Folklore’s” “sister album,” and that trope  certainly applies. There are similarities –– both echo a transcendental, romantic sentiment anchored in a fusion of indie rock and folk instrumentals.

But “Folklore’s” sophistication  is clear;  whereas “Folklore” is beautifully mature, “Evermore” is overtly experimental. It’s as if “Folklore’s” ruminative forest led Swift to a clearing, and she wasn’t sure which direction to go.

Swift uses her brilliant prowess  as a songwriter and raconteur to her advantage, weaving together fictional stories with her own family history; “marjorie” is a heartfelt tribute to her grandmother.

Some of her best work is non-autobiographical; ‘tolerate it’ shines as a moving portrait of a forlorn wife fighting for her marriage alone. Swift seems to use her own experience of her parents’ divorce to refine her portrayal of a strained marriage. “While you were out building other worlds, where was I?” she croons painfully. 

In “Folklore’s” sole vocal collaboration, Swift and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver complimented one another beautifully on “exile.” In contrast, the collaborations on “Evermore” bring a sense of ambiguity to the album, a major fault.

Case in point: “Evermore’s” “coney island”, featuring The National’s Matt Berninger, fails to do what “exile” accomplished so well. Swift and Berninger’s already distinct voices feel decidedly individual and separate.

“Evermore’s” collaborations give Swift an opportunity to experiment with genre. The vengeful theme of “no body, no crime”, featuring two of the three sisters of HAIM,  is reminiscent of Swift’s country phase, particularly her 2010 album “Speak Now.”

“champagne problems,” the story of a rejected proposal related over a piano melody, is redolent of Swift’s 2012 album “Red,” which was full of similar acoustic heartbreak stories. Contrastingly, the faster-paced breakup reflection “long story short” mirrors her 2014 album “1989,” sadistic and sassy and more pop than any of her previous albums. “Red” and “1989” marked Swift’s transition from country to pop; that hybrid is influential on “Evermore,” almost 10 years later.

Swift’s creative fire is admirable, especially in pandemic circumstances. Though aimless at times, and not as full of what are sure to become Swift classics as “Folklore,” “Evermore” proves Swift, yet again,  to be a lyrical and musical phenomenon. Her voice lends itself to every song, and her storytelling is exquisite. I am  left wondering where she will go next; somewhere remarkable, to be sure.