Album Review: Taylor Swift – Folklore

By Ben King

The date was April 27th. Taylor Swift had posted a photo on Instagram, with the caption, “Not a lot going on at the moment.” A mere 3 months later, Swift would announce the release of her 8th studio album titled Folklore – coming out in less than 24 hours. Folklore in its entirety was conceived in lockdown, which means the record was written, produced, mastered and engineered all within just 4 months – proving that an incredible record doesn’t need to be harboured for months on end, and that sometimes your intuition trumps your perfectionism. 

Folklore is a collection of 16 tracks (17 if you include the bonus edition) that interweave multiple narratives together in a subtle, yet sophisticated manner. Long time collaborator Jack Antanoff helped write a few of the tracks, along with Aaron Dressner, but the entire record stemmed directly from Swift herself.

Swift has reached the pinnacle of her songwriting – the lyrics are sharp, intelligent and introspective, creating her best body of work to date. “the last great american dynasty” is a tour de force in lyricism, as the nearly four minute track paints a stunningly detailed film filled with coy euphemisms and lighthearted banter, about a castout woman joyously getting revenge on the town that shunned her. 

The record is an amalgamation of all of Swift’s thoughts, that grew from shortened buds which were nurtured into nearly magical tunes. The songwriter of our generation has created her magnum opus with this record. 

“mirrorball,” is a glimmering, iridescent standout that compares a person’s many facets to that of a kaleidoscopic mirrorball – you can flash different aspects of yourself when you feel as if you have to. 

“exile,” a duet with Justin Vernon from the band Bon Iver, combines Swift’s delicate soprano with Vernon’s gruff baritone, resulting in a stunningly poignant piece of art. 

“the lakes,” is a delightfully elegant track, with the lyrics akin to the very best prose in your favourite novel. Listening to folklore conjures images of quaint, minimalistic cottages with clandestine lit rooms and comfy cardigans, all wrapped up with shimmering fairy lights and whispers of intimacy strewn about. Throw a few fine tuned instruments and vintage decor into the mix, and experience the enchanting ambience of the celestial record. 

From cardigan‘s music video

Songs like “cardigan,” “betty,” and “august,” are all interconnected, with each song shining a voice on a different perspective. “cardigan,” is sung through the lens of a teenage girl who was cheated on, while “betty” is the voice of the teenage boy who broke her heart. Lastly “august,” is sung from the viewpoint of the girl who got caught up in the affair, to create a narrative that flows throughout the record. It is a testament to the strength of Swift’s songwriting that she is able to thread storylines together in a coherent, nearly otherworldly fashion.  

Folklore has proven once again, the colossal talent Taylor Swift has as both a songwriter and producer. The alternative, folksy pop sound is where Swift is at her most confident, evidently shining through this collection of songs. Folklore has cemented Swift’s place as a modern day icon, and what a story it is to unfold.