I first listened to “Folklore” curled up with a book on a rainy Bombay evening. Taylor Swift’s eighth studio album is remarkably different from her signature radio-hit, ever-enthusiastic synth-pop brand — and it’s absolutely delightful. “Folklore” has an almost mystical way of transporting its audience to a hazy evening in a dark red brick cabin enveloped by curling ivy. It is reminiscent of pre-lockdown walks barefoot in the pattering rain and the scent of wet mud beneath your toes.
As the novel coronavirus destroys the semblance of normalcy, Swift’s album is an excellent reminder that art cannot be planned. Written during lockdown and produced remotely, Swift worked on the album with producers Aaron Dessner of rock band The National and her longtime colleague Jack Antonoff. The album embraces Swift’s greatest strength — her ability to weave storylines in an intricate, delicate and beautiful way. “Folklore,” as the title suggests, is an album following third person narratives, peppered with semi-autobiographical lyrics cushioned in nostalgia, diaphanous strings, a smoky atmosphere and soft instrumentals.
The album opens with “the 1,” a bittersweet reflection of loving someone in your 20s. “We were something, don’t you think so?” Swift asks pleadingly. It’s the measured retrospection of a relationship that yearns for closure, but isn’t incapacitated without it. “Cardigan” paints a hauntingly painful picture of the transience of youth, the distress of heartbreak and the comfort of acceptance. “When you are young, they assume you know nothing,” she sings as she laments a love lost to a fast-paced youth. The song boomerangs at the lyric, “but I knew everything when I was young” — a reminder of the carefree, wide-eyed optimism one trades in for reserved cautiousness with age.
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