Folklore is a surprise in so many ways. Not what I expected from Taylor Swift. Not actually what I expected from Aaron Dessner. What I find most interesting is that it feels like something of a departure for all parties. For me this continues with some of the sounds explored with The National’s I am Easy to Find
, while it also captures some of Antonoff’s nuances.
More Lana Del Rey and less Carly Rae Jepsen.
Folklore applies Swift’s signature lyrical style — richly and carefully detailed, rife with knowing callbacks — to a new palette informed by Dessner’s work. Skittering instrumentation proves a match for Swift’s use of speak-song cadence; meditative piano and horns offer a cinematic soundscape for explorations of character that move beyond autobiography.(source)
“Folklore” isn’t a folk record—it feels mostly genre-less, though it drifts toward gauzy, atmospheric pop—nor is it particularly autobiographical. Instead, Swift is interested in the idea of storytelling—of folklore, writ large—as a kind of sense-making process, a real and useful chance to order the world. How do we find meaning in the absurd or banal things that happen to us? Which narratives float us, which hobble us, and which are we totally free to reconstruct?(source)
With folklore, Swift has made a self-consciously minor transitional album, a grand readjustment. She’s nailed it. Swift, it turns out, is one of the few great pop chameleons to come along in recent years. She was great at gleaming Walmart country. She was great at bright-plastic global-domination ultra-pop. She was a bit less great at quasi-trap club music, but she made do. And now she’s great at lightly challenging soft-thrum dinner party music.(source)
With its woodsy black-and-white art, not to mention its title, Folklore advertises itself as an expected pop-star maneuver: the “back to basics” or “stripped down” revelation. But the album’s more complex than that, and does not conjure the image of Swift slumped over a guitar for an acoustic set. With the producers Aaron Dessner (of the indie band The National) and Jack Antonoff (the rock singer turned pop-star whisperer), she swims through intricate classical and folk instrumentation largely organized by the gridded logic of electronic music. Melancholy singers of ’90s rock radio such as Natalie Merchant and Sarah McLachlan seem to guide Swift’s choices, as do contemporaries such as Lana Del Rey and Lorde. The overall effect is eerie, gutting, and nostalgic. If Folklore is not apt for summer fun, it is apt for a year in which rambunctious cheer and mass sing-alongs have few venues in which to thrive.(source)
Taylor Swift has stated that,
My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world.