With the college football season and, well, the rest of the country in flux, we’ve tried to think up some creative new ideas to bring you guys content and get some fun discussions going in the comment section.
Having said that, I’d like to introduce everyone to Music Monday. Each Monday, a BSD writer (usually me) will breakdown a new album or a current artist they enjoy and talk about what it is that makes them a fan and where new fans should start if they’re looking to hear more.
We start the series with the album that has swept across the music world the last 72 hours, Folklore by Taylor Swift.
Now, Swift is a big enough name that anything she releases is going to cause a stir. Folklore is different, however. Swift announced the new album, which was written and recorded entirely over the last four months, just 24 hours before its release. She also explained that the album would, fittingly, have a more stripped down, folksy sound compared to her two most recent releases, Reputation and Lover.
It came as no surprise to see that Swift worked alongside longtime producer/writer Jack Antonoff, who has worked with her regularly as well as artists such as Lorde and Lana Del Rey in addition to making his own music with Bleachers. The surprise, however, came with the addition of Aaron Dessner. Dessner is a member of solemn dad-rock (and Clay) favorites The National and brings immediate credibility to the album for indie rock fans. His twin brother also provided orchestrations for the album.
So, about that album.
As whole this was most adventurous Swift has ever been with her sound. The stripped-down sound and more serious subject matter lended a maturity to the album that had been lacking in the past. Tracks like “Betty” and “My Tears Ricochet” feel like they would be right at home on early Swift albums Fearless and Speak Now.
The influence of Dessner was highly evident on sorrowful closers “Peace” and “Hoax” in addition to what I would call the standout track on the album, “Seven.” That gets turned up a notch on “Exile” when Swift recruits Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) fame for a melodic trip through a post-relationship breakdown.
Antonoff’s production brilliance shines through most on a three-song string of “August”, “This is Me Trying”, and “Illicit Affairs” and coupled with Swift’s brooding lyricism it creates a sound that has been acclaimed by pop and indie fans alike.
Swift stepping out from her pop comfort zone, one that has undoubtedly served her well both financially and on the awards stage, is a bold move that turned out to be a clear home run.
On the eleventh track on the album, “Invisible Strings”, waxes poetically: “Cold was the steel of my axe to grind for the boys who broke my heart, now I send their babies presents.”
The line, much like the content both lyrically and sonically on the rest of the album, paints a pictured of less vengeful, more mature Swift who is now left to reconcile some of her own failings and emotions. In doing so, she’s created a highly relatable album that shows listeners like them, she has grown since the days of her pop banger “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” from her album Red in 2012.
Ultimately, in her first attempt at the post-pop era of Taylor Swift, the megastar knocked it out of the park. The production, melodies and vocals were soft enough so as not to scare off her biggest pop supporters, while heavy enough to make her infinitely more relatable to listeners who spend more time in the indie scene. In a sense, she made an indie/emo album for people who don’t listen to indie/emo music.
While a slight lack of biting lyrics like you’d get from a National album (‘sup, Matt Berninger) kept me from truly falling in love with the album, it’s easy to how it will perform exceedingly well both critically and commercially. For an artist who had been put in a box beforehand, it’s hard to say Swift did anything but knock the ball out of the park with Folklore.