folklore (deluxe version)
A mere 11 months passed between the release of Lover and its surprise follow-up, but it feels like a lifetime. Written and recorded remotely during the first few months of the global pandemic, folklore finds the 30-year-old singer-songwriter teaming up with The National’s Aaron Dessner and long-time collaborator Jack Antonoff for a set of ruminative and relatively lo-fi bedroom pop that’s worlds away from its predecessor. When Swift opens “the 1”—a sly hybrid of plaintive piano and her naturally bouncy delivery—with “I’m doing good, I’m on some new st,” you’d be forgiven for thinking it was another update from quarantine, or a comment on her broadening sensibilities. But Swift’s channelled her considerable energies into writing songs here that double as short stories and character studies, from Proustian flashbacks (“cardigan”, which bears shades of Lana Del Rey) to outcast widows (“the last great american dynasty”) and doomed relationships (“exile”, a heavy-hearted duet with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon). It’s a work of great texture and imagination. “Your braids like a pattern/Love you to the moon and to Saturn,” she sings on “seven”, the tale of two friends plotting an escape. “Passed down like folk songs, the love lasts so long.” For a songwriter who has mined such rich detail from a life lived largely in public, it only makes sense that she’d eventually find inspiration in isolation.