We Swifties at Mother Jones have a tradition of posting our live reactions to Taylor Swift’s new releases (much to our editor-in-chief’s chagrin). The occasion of Taylor’s surprise second pandemic album, evermore, was no exception.
This time, Digital Media Fellows Sam Van Pykeren and Abigail Weinberg were joined by Senior Designer Grace Molteni, who had to step out toward the end of the listening sesh but whose track-by-track reviews were added in later. And, between the important phone calls about the Biden transition that she had to take for her important work, our politics reporter Kara Voght dropped in to make a few comments along the way.
So hit play and follow along!
Track 1: “willow”
Grace Molteni: Not the sea shanty tune I was hoping for, but I’ll take it.
Abigail Weinberg: This definitely feels like a reprisal of folklore.
Sam Van Pykeren: There will be no better album starter than “the 1” but this is really good—it’s a total sister, same ethos and sound, yet the tone and stories are just a bit different.
GM: It makes sense if the first few songs are transitions. “Begging for you to wreck my plans, that’s my man.” Sounds like men to me.
AW: It reminds me of “The Louvre” by Lorde. “Blow all my friendships to sit in hell with you.”
Track 2: “champagne problems”
SVP: Ugh champagne problems…it was written by just her and Joe, her boy.
AW: I kind of hate the way she sings “champagne problems.” This album is like, Swift listened to Carrie and Lowell and cried a few times.
GM: Sat in the same room as Sufjan, sad by proximity.
AW: So why do we think it’s champagne problems? Why champagne?
SVP: Rich people problems!
GM: Her problems are cute and expensive and bubbly. And sometimes give you a headache.
Track 3: “gold rush”
SVP: Instant fave.
AW: We’re finally getting a poppy beat!
GM: Taking me on a journey.
SVP: Feels like “mirrorball’s” sister.
GM: Starting with a siren chorus and now we’re dancing. Love a contrarian vocab in a pop song.
Track 4: “‘tis the damn season” and Track 5: “tolerate it”
SVP: These Aaron Dessner strings tho.
Kara Voght: Yes!
GM: This sure does feel like running into your ex in your small town.
KV: There’s such a road not taken vibe to this too.
SVP: There always is with Taylor!
KV: Like, there’s always that person who you weren’t ever going to be with. But you revisit them like a bad habit.
SVP: She’s a “what if” writer.
AW: The one that got away.
SVP: “the 1” was literally all of this. But I love how the guitar strings really capture the longing of a homegrown lost love.
GM: Her early longing songs had those plucky strings—“Teardrops On My Guitar.”
KV: You could imagine her in her bedroom at home doing this.
GM: Didn’t feel like it could have happened anywhere other than a small hometown.
SVP: There’s something special to a love that’s captured and grown within the boundaries of home.
KV: That’s evolution: If this were Red she would have put big drums and strings behind it.
GM: You feel like these are visceral memories and people, and not just a rough shape of a person that we can pour our own lost love into.
SVP: The thing I’ve really enjoyed about folklore, and now evermore, is how self-aware Taylor’s become about herself in relationships. It’s so prevalent in this track, but also throughout these two albums.
GM: It’s like she’s learned the power of her voice and her story without having to add volume.
KV: I think evermore is better than folklore. There, I said it.
Track 6: “no body, no crime (feat. HAIM)”
AW: I’m liking the sound of this so far.
SVP: Best track on the album.
KV: evermore is everything she’s ever done well, but at its apex.
GM: Carrie Underwood vibing.
SVP: Giving me Dolly’s “Jolene,” Miranda’s “Drowns the Whiskey,” The Chicks…everything?
Track 7: “happiness”
AW: For a song called “happiness,” this sure sounds sad!
GM: I will be promptly adding this to my “sad bitch juice” playlist to drown in at a future date.
SVP: These lyrics are some of her best imo! This feels like the sister of “mad woman.”
GM: Sad woman / mad woman.
SVP: What is anger if not a manifestation of sadness?
GM: My anger protects me from my sadness.
AW: This song is too long. Sorry to be a wet blanket.
Track 8: “dorothea”
AW: So what is this song about?
SVP: Dorothea is her gay lover right?
AW: I saw someone tweet that Taylor can’t be bi, because if she were she would have announced it for clout a long time ago, lmaoooo.
SVP: I disagree.
GM: I think she’s more private than people give her credit for!
SVP: Sexuality is complicated and look at how long it took her to “come out” politically lol.
AW: Yeah that’s a good point. I do conceptualize this song, and the whole Betty and James situation, as more of a fantasy than a coming out.
SVP: Yeah, I think Dorothea is a character, like Betty.
GM: The change in tone of folklore and evermore may have also opened up space to explore those songs.
Track 9: “coney island (feat. The National)”
SVP: One of the least memorable songs for me.
AW: But it’s got The National!
SVP: I can’t tell Dessner and Bon Iver apart.
GM: Beam me up saddies.
SVP: This sounds like another worship song. “exile” was youth group gold. Now this? Maybe Taylor isn’t gay.
AW: A lot of these songs are just dragging.
Track 10: “ivy”
AW: I like her vocals on this.
GM: More sea shanties and carnie tunes, Tay!
SVP: Totally Abigail, this feels like old school Tay.
GM: Reminds me of “invisible string.”
Track 11: “cowboy like me”
SVP: I love that Taylor is finally going through her 2011 alt-Tumblr phase. I think this is the Mumford and Sons dude in the background, which makes it all so good.
GM: For a song this long, I’m surprised by how repetitive it is.
SVP: “Forever is the sweetest con”…ouch.
Track 12: “long story short”
SVP: I love this one. Apparently, it’s about 2016, Kanye, Kim, and all that.
AW: Seems like she won out in the end…“I always felt I must look better in the rearview.”
SVP: It’s so self-aware and mature. I love watching people come into their adult selves.
AW: “Your nemeses will defeat themselves before you get the chance to swing.”
GM: I can imagine dancing in my kitchen cleaning to this song.
Track 13: “marjorie”
SVP: This is about her grandma.
AW: Oh yeah?
SVP: Reminds me of my dead grandmother, lol. I really don’t have anything easy to say about this song. I could listen to it on repeat, write a whole personal essay on it. Makes me feel very deep things about my family.
AW: Its intention?
GM: I haven’t lost a family member I was close to, but this does make me think about the women in my life who have shaped me.
SVP: Testament to Taylor’s storytelling.
Track 14: “closure”
AW: I like the opening of closure, the industrial sound.
SVP: Very Charli XCX.
GM: I like that it’s a song about closure, but about not needing closure.
SVP: I know, this album overall has a much more intimate and slow feel than folklore.
SVP: Eh, I take back intimate. They’re both intimate. This is just a bit slower, which at first comes off maybe more intimate than it actually is.
Track 15: “evermore”
AW: Another track with Bon Iver.
SVP: This is so much better than “exile.”
GM: It feels like a better fit both for her and Justin. It doesn’t feel like either of them are trying to be someone else or tell someone else’s story.
AW: “Floors of the cabin creaking under my step.” Cottagecore Taylor.
SVP: Best thing to come out of 2020 was cottagecore.
That’s it for the in-real-time listening experience; now it’s time for some of our post-album reflections.
SVP: What’re your initial thoughts, overall?
AW: Honestly, I didn’t like it as much as folklore. I feel like the schtick got kind of old and the songs were repetitious. The highlight was “no body, no crime.” But that’s just based on an initial listening. It might grow on me.
SVP: Interesting! I think I still like folklore more too, as a whole body. I’m personally more attuned to a more pop sound, it’s where I find my connection with music, and I think that she combined that with this new sound—and her old sounds—really well on folklore, whereas this one is definitely more of the slow and steady variety. But yeah, “no body, no crime” is an absolute smash.
AW: You’ve listened to it, what, four times now? How has your impression of the album changed since your initial listen?
SVP: It’s definitely grown on me with each listen! That is for sure. Initially, I had the impression that this was more intimate and real than folklore, but I don’t think that’s fair to say at all because they both offer intimacy in different ways?
SVP: And folklore had moments that just shone so brightly. evermore feels a bit dull in its shadow.
AW: Totally, that’s my impression as well.
SVP: But it makes sense because this is essentially one huge album!