Well, wasn't this a surprise? If quarantine has done one good thing, it's that it has given music artists tons of time to stay at home and write new music. Furthermore, with modern recording technology allowing artists to record at home, it feels like we will see a huge influx of new music throughout the rest of the year. Indeed, Charli XCX has already given us an entire album and Billie Eilish has a new single coming out on Thursday.
But perhaps the biggest shock (so far) is Taylor Swift's Folklore. Releasd without any promotional build-up whatsoever, it was announced on the Thursday and released on the Friday. Ellie Goulding must feel slightly betrayed that her friend has stolen her album's release date, but here we are, and it's fair to say that it's nothing like any Swift we've heard before.
For one thing, let's consider Swift's reputation as a singer who only writes about her break-ups. It's certainly no secret that she has used her relationships and separations as lyrical influences, as do so many artists, but this is not that. Relationships remain a theme, but they're presented very differently, and there's a 'storyteller' feel to much of this album. These songs are all mini-stories, and perhaps they are personal, perhaps not. Either way, there's something deeper in all this, something that goes beyond the simple and straightforward lyrics of previous albums.
And what about the sound of the songs, the genre? She started Country and went Pop, but this is neither. Instead. an indie-folk sound dominates this record, led by pianos and guitars and backed up by quiet drum patterns and strings. It's the sort of place where Nina Nesbitt and Gabrielle Aplin started, before they brought more electronic elements into their music. With Folklore, Swift has gone the opposite way, ditching the synths and hooks for a far more stripped-back and acoustic record. There are fewer outright catchy moments on here and more melodies, and whilst none of the tracks are earworms, they're all genuinely beautiful to listen to - and, frankly, better.
Once again, it's another record that, from start to finish, is consistent in its quality. So many of the reviews on this website have been positive, with only a few genuinely negative ones. Perhaps I'm not critical enough, maybe my standards are too low, but it seems to me that as bad as 2020 has been in general, it has been absolutely incredible for music. So many fantastic albums have been released and it's forcing me to write consistently good reviews. With Folklore, Swift has made me do another one, and though it sounds like it right now, I'm not complaining. It's not just me either; since its release on Friday, it has received acclaim from across the board, and it's absolutely well-deserved.
It's well-known that she's had recent issues with her record labels and the people behind them, and it turns out that, like us, her current label didn't know about Folklore until just before its release. You have to wonder, then - is this the real Taylor Swift, the Taylor Swift without label input? Is this where her heart lies, where the artist inside her is pointing? If so, it's difficult not to think it's the best decision for her - as it always is when the decision is left to the artist themselves.
This is a record on which Taylor Swift had the final say on every single decision, and it shows, because it's her best effort. Quarantine clearly gave her pause for thought, and maybe without even meaning to, she's written an album that has more of her own heart than ever before. Full of magnificent tracks such as 'cardigan', 'the last great american dynasty', 'august' and the absolutely tear-jerking 'epiphany', Swift shines all the way through. She has taken stick down the years, but this has made it clear that, left to her own devices, Swift is as much an artist as anyone. This is a wonderful record, and if she continues in this direction, her career at the top will last a while yet.
While you're here, we'd like to make a request. We currently run this website on the tightest of budgets, and whilst we gladly do it because we love music, we need money like any other business. We have set up a Patreon which is linked below. If you read and enjoy our content, please give it a look and consider donating what you can to help keep us running. Thank you.