Photo Credit: Beth Garrabrant
It’s easy to get excited about surprises. Kristen Wiig even loves surprises, and one has to think Taylor Swift was bitten by the bug (it’s not too hard to imagine Swift bingeing Wiig’s SNL routine over and over). Not even five months after the release of her first surprise record and a second one bursts forth in the form of evermore, a continuation of her successful collaboration with The National’s Aaron Dessner and her evergreen partner in crime, Jack Antonoff. evermore builds upon the indie romance Swift flirts heavily with on folklore. Her songwriting explorations delve deeper into others’ shoes as she whets her appetite for empathetic journeys into the unknown.
evermore embodies wisdom put to paper like nothing Swift has released. Her album eras are often distinct enough to warrant whiplash from the about-face, but she’s had time to sink her teeth into her chosen mindset for these two albums. Her reflections are deeper now, and for the first time, they even seem scarred. The quiet, contemplative highlight “happiness” acknowledges that imperfection doesn’t mean ruin: “There’ll be happiness after you // But there was happiness because of you // Both of these things can be true.” Her delivery of the line, “You haven’t met the new me yet,” is gripping.
Many of the songs here have a folkloric lilt to them that makes them easy to get lost in — a “rainy day” feel that conjures pictures of stormy seas and lighthouses. “dorothea” is another exploration of a romance that bloomed in the hallways of a charming high school, but Swift’s lyrics paint it vividly. Bonus track “right where you left me” shows that the same girl that wrote “Tim McGraw” may be wearing $6,000 Max Mara coats these days, but she’s never really going to move on. Better than all the rest is the stunning “cowboy like me”, a memoir of a dangerous romance that left her breathless and broken. “Now you hang from my lips // Like the Gardens of Babylon // With your boots beneath my bed // Forever is the sweetest con.”
The most exciting result of evermore is Swift’s sincere commitment to learn even more from the likes of Joni Mitchell. Conversational poetry has always been a supreme strength of hers, but she flirts with disaster sometimes in her efforts to be casual and cool. Now that cool seems to be less of a consideration and she’s proven she can top the year-end sales chart with an indie album, walls are starting to come down.
Superstars, especially women, are disposable in the minds of so many of their own listeners; escaping a black hole is impossible for most. It’s a beautiful arc to her story, her resurrection from the label drama that’s dogged her. Re-recordings of her old material are now well underway, sessions of which have undoubtedly taken some stress off of her mind.
It’s yet to be seen whether she’ll continue walking this path in the Upstate New York woods for a while, or move on to something else. Regardless of her choice, the footprints she left on that walk leave volumes for the rest of us to study. Her legions will eternally ponder over just who she’s talking shit about, but it’s more rewarding to consider that she’s moved beyond all that entirely.