What’s the best kept secret in the World? Well it appears to be a brand new Taylor Swift album! It struck me at 5am on the 24th July - my 25th Birthday, As I watched the premiere of the Cardigan video, all those people involved in the making of this masterpiece and not one of them gave it away that Taylor Swift was releasing her 8th studio album! Well if someone had told you she was releasing another album this quick you might have said, no that can’t be right, it must just be a fable, a fairytale, gossip... Folklore! So here we have it, a lady who needs no introduction, with an album that needs no promotion, Folklore is a masterpiece and here’s why!
The album starts with "The 1" and incidentally we're introduced to this simple, stripped back production which seems reflective of the isolation in which she wrote this body of work. "Cardigan" follows, and this came with a haunting video, the part where Taylor is clinging on to a piano in the middle of a choppy Ocean really tugs at the heart strings! There is some clever lyrics throughout the record, some of Taylor’s best, which is saying something “try to change the ending, Peter losing Wendy” this is not the only line that refers to children’s stories, fairytales, fables and folklore on this record! The metaphor of the old Cardigan is beautiful yet inventive. "The Last American Dynasty" picks up the beat a little bit. It feels like a juxtaposition, lyrically it has sad undertones but the feel of the music doesn’t reflect that and I love the line “She had a marvellous time ruining everything.”
"Exile" featuring Bon Iver follows, this is my favourite so far, it’s a haunting song, and in this day and age where synths and electronic music rules there’s still no denying the emotive power of a string section which is utilised well along with the piano in this song as it builds towards the end. Bon Iver and Taylor’s voices work well together as well. It’s a tear jerker! "My Tears Ricochet" is the 5th of this 16 track record. It opens with a small choir of voices. The emptiness of this track gives the vocals and lyrics space to hammer home their message, again there is an affective utilisation of strings. "Mirrorball" raises the mood again, and Taylor’s use of falsetto is just beautiful. I just love the lyrics referring to the circus and rodeo in the bridge section, you can picture it, although still in black and white. "Seven" is the seventh track, it feels all on one level, melodically there’s not much movement.
"August" is a departure from the last track, Taylor’s vocals are brighter and there’s more movement. “August slipped away like a bottle of wine” is a fantastic line! Halfway through and it’s troubling me, what is this record? It’s not really anything like we’ve heard before from Taylor, it’s not Country or Pop but I think it’s perfect for what the World is going through right now! If I had to pull examples of previous songs she’s released that could sit comfortably in the mix of this album, well it’s like Clean meets The Archer and It’s Nice to Have a Friend. A long intro leads us into "This Is Me Trying". There’s a lot of eeriness in this song, particularly in the instrumental breaks. The vocals become urgent and out of sync with the music during the bridge. Again we hear a lot of falsetto from Taylor. We hear traditional instruments in "Illicit Affairs" for the first time on the album. The backing vocals throughout the record are put to good use!
"Invisible String" has some beautiful melodic lines in it. There’s some great storytelling lyrics in this song and in fact throughout the record. "Mad Woman" follows with some dark lyrics and imagery once again and the odd explicit phrase, which is a bit of a first for Taylor. "Epiphany" has the perfect intro to match the title and again Taylor is sitting at the top of her vocal range. I just love the space that the production gives her throughout the record, it really showcases her lyric writing! This reminds me a little of Sara Bareilles The Blessed Unrest album. Betty takes us to a different place again, the instrumentation is purely acoustic, still quite simple but fitting for the song which is full of nostalgia! The penultimate song is "Peace", it’s an interesting love song, with a bass taking the main countermelody line. The digital album concludes with "Hoax", a beautiful, somber, piano ballad which features some delicate string sections again, very distant in the mix.
There are 8 versions of this album available on the online store, in three different physical formats. Her unique approach to marketing has ensured that, at least among Swifties, the physical ownership of music has not been forgotten, something special in a digital world! Her clever songwriting and the way she can adapt to every situation and capture the feeling, even in a pandemic, has ensured that Folklore will become a hit amongst fans and the wider music community! Stripped of the bright pop fanfare production of her previous albums, this record gets right to the bones of Taylor’s incredible Songwriting ability. It’s a very unique album for Taylor but one that the World needs to hear!