I hinted at this on New Years Day and the theme week that followed. I’m a fan of Taylor. I think most music lovers are. I know Down With The Sickness Metalheads and Punk A-F Road Dogs who have to hand it to her. It’s not just thirsty blokes getting their heads turnt* by the blonde hair and the red lips. It’s the quality of the songs.
My mate Damo from Aus raved about her back when her album Red was doing the rounds. And he’s toured with Marky Ramone so… The two things line up roughly actually. He was in a kick arse band called MUSCLECAR who have split now but he’s doing a podcast thing these days (who isn’t?) called LongGoneLoser. You should check it out. My Buddy Dave liked her Speak Now live album before Damo cottoned me on to the fact there might be something there. He was honest with me, he saw a pretty girl with a pretty guitar on the cover of a record and the next thing he knew he was singing along with Sparks Fly and The Story of Us like he had pigtails and a boys name in a heart on the cover of his notebook. Classic Dave. You wouldn’t believe he once worked for Velvet Revolver. In his defence though, he does have a weakness for pretty guitars.
I was like much of the rest of the adult European world in the fact I could not avoid the album 1989 when it came out in 2014 (How’s that for a sentence? SteveForTheDeaf time paradox or what?). You could literally buy it at the counter of the petrol station even if they didn’t sell CD’s there usually, so ubiquitous was the sales strategy for that album.
The leveling of the pop landscape which 1989 created meant even if you weren’t a YouTube addicted teeny bopper with a long bob and a crush on Alex from Target you now had no doubt who Tay Tay was.
It’s clear from this vintage vantage point, with half a decades hindsight. Clear that, that album above all (pop albums from the era) is the 2010’s equivalent of Thriller or Saturday Night Fever or something by Abba (I get vague around Scandi-pop, I’m not an Abba guy). Literally every track is a genre and generation spanning cross over hit. My mum knows the words to Shake It Off. My Niece’s kids will know Welcome To New York (The Secret Life Of Pets will do business for the next 30 years, mark my words) it’s a horizon puncturing mountain of a record. In pop terms.
I didn’t need a mate to endorse 1989. I bought it. I also bought the #MeToo moment where cover all Ryan Adams was called out as an abuser and completely at odds with the #GirlGang crowd a couple of years later. I wholeheartedly believe. I won’t post any more links to his stuff. The guys a wrong ‘un.
That album though (Taylor’s 1989). It has so much world class stuff on it. For me the best two are Wildest Dreams and Style. What great songs. Incredible writing.
So it is, Reputation and Lover only suffer in as much as they are not 1989. They’re good mega snappy pop records but that peak has been conquered. Taylor had country roots. That’s a very American way of looking at it. What can I say about country? I’m from the UK. Over here that’s folk music. Except most Country we see and hear from the US is actually what we’d call soft rock, or pop or MOR. Just with a hat on. 1989 though? A peak. It took a couple or records but she stopped chasing the bigger better faster more and went with ‘What do I want to do?’ As a music fan, I see this proper folk era as a new creative peak.
In early 2020 Taylor dropped the surprise album Folklore on an unsuspecting home alone world. Through out Lock-down columnists pawed over the significance of this down beat indie Americana direction she had taken. Cardigan was a balm for pop fans who couldn’t Shake It anywhere but home. Betty from that album deserves a proper shout out too. A real moment. Magnificent pop that recognises the world it is being released in.
Now we’re caught up. Here is Evermore. A folk rock pop sequel of an album. Like it’s opening act, Evermore has got spacious melodies, all real wooden instruments and special guests from the indie world. Guests like Haim, The National and Bon Iver. And you know what? It’s a beautiful thing. Don’t hate the player hate the game. These are good songs, played well, produced delicately and wholly effective as a mood, as a pleasant way to pass the time and as little ear worms that follow you around while you perform the little functions and tasks a locked down life allows.
Willow is the lead single, with a big budget video directed by the star herself. It’s a pretty deft piece of film making in a glossy kind of way. Like a Wiccan Walt Disney tale. Big budget, high end but charming and warm. I didn’t realise it when I started listening to the stream on my TV app but (as I write) I’m listening to the new Taylor Swift album on the day of it’s release. That time paradox is in full effect because you’re reading his over month later (at least)…
“Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind, I come back stronger than a 90’s trend”
The rest of the Evermore album is available as a lyric video playlist on YouTube. It’s got a lot going on and some really nice typography if that’s your thing. I wholly recommend it. It came out today (except it’s actually blah blah blah) and I’ve listened three and a half times now. I’ve been walking around with Champagne Problems, ‘Tis The Damned Season and No Body No Crime all day. Este from Haim, I am shocked!
“Every bait and switch was a work of art”
Here’s hoping there’s a third chapter before the tide changes and she becomes something else again.
*I’ve never used that word before. I promise I wont do it again.