evermore

December 11, 2020

“evermore” (stylized in all lowercase) is Taylor’s ninth studio album. It was released on December 11, 2020, only five months after Taylor’s eighth studio album, “folklore“. With “evermore”, Taylor expanded on everything she experimented with on the album’s predecessor. In doing so, “evermore” acts as a companion album to “folklore” and features connecting themes. The lyrics generally revolve around love, marriage, infidelity, and noir, detailed in form of impressionist storytelling and interlacing narratives.

“evermore” is no ragbag of “folklore” B-sides and throwaways. Rather, it’s a sister album that only crystallizes Taylor’s strengths as a songwriter, as she moves further away from the candid autobiography that’s defined her music since her 2006 debut.

“My world felt opened up creatively. There was a point that I got to as a writer who only wrote very diaristic songs that I felt it was unsustainable for my future moving forward. So what I felt after we put out ‘folklore’ was like, ‘Oh wow, people are into this too, this thing that feels really good for my life and feels really good for my creativity… it feels good for them too?” — Taylor Swift

BACKGROUND AND RELEASE
Taylor announced “evermore” on December 10, 2020, after blocking out her Instagram feed with one image, as she did when she announced “folklore” in July of the same year. She wrote:

“To put it plainly, we just couldn’t stop writing songs. To try and put it more poetically, it feels like we were standing on the edge of the folklorian woods and had a choice: to turn and go back or to travel further into the forest of this music. We chose to wander deeper in. I’ve never done this before. In the past, I’ve always treated albums as one-off eras and moved onto planning the next one after an album was released. There was something different with ‘folklore’. In making it, I felt less like I was departing and more like I was returning. I loved the escapism I found in these imaginary/not imaginary tales. I loved the ways you welcomed the dreamscapes and tragedies and epic tales of love lost and found into your lives. So I just kept writing them.” — Taylor Swift

The album announcement came as a surprise, even to insiders: while Taylor had said in interviews that she’d been writing, there was no suggestion that a new album was in the works, let alone weeks away from release.

“Ever since I was 13, I’ve been excited about turning 31 because it’s my lucky number backward, which is why I wanted to surprise you with this now. I also know this holiday season will be a lonely one for most of us and if there are any of you out there who turn to music to cope with missing loved ones the way I do, this is for you.” — Taylor Swift

“I feel differently today than I felt the day after releasing ‘folklore’ because, even the day after releasing ‘folklore,’ Aaron and I were still bouncing ideas back and forth and we just knew we were gonna keep writing music,” Taylor told Apple Music‘s Zane Lowe on the release day of “evermore”. “With this one, I have this feeling of quiet conclusion and this weird serenity of, ‘We did what we set out to do and we’re all really proud of it’, and that feels really really nice.” Dessner shared his feelings in an interview with Billboard:

“’folklore’ almost immediately was treated as a classic or a masterpiece. It was elevated fairly quickly and had been commercially really successful, so obviously it’s hard to follow something like that up. But one of the things I love about ‘evermore’ is the ways in which [Taylor] was jumping off different cliffs. The ability she has to tell these stories, but also push what she’s doing musically, is really kind of astonishing. It’s like I went to some crash course, some masters program, for six months.” — Aaron Dessner

TRANSITION FROM FOLKLORE TO EVERMORE
Taylor and Aaron Dessner didn’t expect to make another record so soon after “folklore”. As they were putting the final touches on Taylor’s album in summer 2020, the two artists had been collaborating remotely on possible songs for Big Red Machine, Dessner’s music project with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (who also dueted with Taylor on the “folklore” track “exile”). “I think I’d written around 30 of those instrumentals in total,” Dessner recalled. “So when I started sharing them with Taylor over the months that we were working on ‘folklore’, she got really into it, and she wrote two songs to some of that music.”

One was “closure,” an experimental electronic track in 5/4 time signature that was built over a staccato drum kit. The other song was “dorothea,” a rollicking, Americana piano tune. The more Dessner listened to them, the more he realized that they were continuations of characters and stories from “folklore”. But the real turning point came soon after that album’s surprise release in late July, 2020, when Dessner wrote a musical sketch and named it “Westerly,” after the town in Rhode Island where Taylor owns the house previously occupied by Rebekah Harkness and where her song “the last great american dynasty” takes place. “I didn’t really think she would write something to it — sometimes I’ll name songs after my friends’ hometowns or their babies, just because I write a lot of music and you have to call it something, and then I’ll send it to them,” Dessner said. “But, anyway, I sent it to her, and not long after she wrote ‘willow’ to that song and sent it back.” Taylor told Zane Lowe in an interview for the 2020 Apple Music Awards:

“With ‘folklore’, one of the main themes throughout that album was ‘conflict resolution’, trying to figure out how to get through something with someone, or making confessions, or trying to tell them something, trying to communicate with them. ‘evermore’ deals a lot in endings of all sorts, shapes and sizes. All the kinds of ways we can end a relationship, a friendship, something toxic and the pain that goes along with that.” — Taylor Swift

ART DIRECTION
Following the lush, ghostly, woodland aesthetic of “folklore”, “evermore” takes upon a wintry theme, extending as a yuletide sequel of the former’s cottagecore. The album cover artwork of “evermore”, photographed by “folklore” collaborator Beth Garrabrant, shows Taylor standing in a wooded area, facing away from the camera with her hair styled in a French braid, wearing a single-breasted, brown and orange checked coat, sustainably designed by Stella McCartney.

TAYLOR’S SECOND REMOTE COLLABORATION
Coming less than six months after “folklore,” a songwriting masterclass that produced some of the best music of Taylor’s already prolific career, “evermore” continued the ethos of its predecessor: twinkling piano, lush strings and plucked guitar, as Taylor spins vibrant yarns about real and imagined characters. And like her last album, “evermore” was cowritten and produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff. Taylor’s partner Joe Alwyn also returned as a co-writer on three songs, under his pseudonym William Bowery:

“I would say that it was a surprise when we started writing together, but, in way it wasn’t because we have always bonded over music and have the same musical taste.” — Taylor Swift

Additionally, “evermore” was also Taylor’s second product of remote collaboration. Prior to the pandemic, her collaborations were usually done in the same room, but the nature of the times necessitated ingenuity. Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner joined Taylor for a recorded performance of “folklore,” but had not been together in the months before that to craft the original album. In a similar vein, “evermore” was mostly constructed through virtual communication. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon features on both albums and has songwriting credits, yet he and Taylor were never in the same room. Taylor told Zane Lowe in December, 2020:

“’the long pond studio sessions‘ was the first time that Jack, Aaron and I were in the same room, and I still haven’t been in the same room with Justin Vernon, who has now collaborated on two albums heavily. We’ve talked but we’ve just never been in the same space together. It’s pretty wild.” — Taylor Swift

WRITING AND PRODUCTION
Even more spontaneous than the album that preceded it, “evermore” features more eclectic production alongside Taylor’s continued project of character-driven songwriting. It also includes an even wider group of collaborators, like HAIM and Dessner’s own band The National. Taylor recorded most of her vocals at Aaron Dessner’s Long Pond Studio in September, 2020. She stayed after after the production of the concert film “folklore: the long pond studio sessions” had wrapped. Aaron Dessner recalled: “It was crazy because we were getting ready to make that film, but at the same time, these songs were accumulating. And so we thought, ‘Hmm, I guess we should just stay and work.’”

“The ideas were coming fast and furiously and were just as compelling as anything on ‘folklore’, and it felt like the most natural thing in the world. At some point, Taylor wrote ‘evermore’ with William Bowery [Joe Alwyn], and then we sent it to Justin, who wrote the bridge, and all of a sudden, that’s when it started to become clear that there was a sister record […] And with Taylor, I think it just became clear to her what was happening. It really picked up steam, and at some point, there were 17 songs.” — Aaron Dessner

There weren’t limitations to the process, according to Dessner. It was really impressive to him that Taylor could tell these stories as easily in something like “closure” as she could in a country song like “cowboy like me,” which is much more familiar, musically. “But to me, she’s just as sharp and just as masterful in her craft in either of those situations. And also, just in terms of what we were interested in, there is a wintry nostalgia to a lot of the music that was intentional on my part,” Dessner said. “I was leaning into the idea that this was fall and winter, and she’s talked about that as well, that ‘folklore’ feels like spring and summer to her and ‘evermore’ is fall and winter. So that’s why you hear sleigh bells on ‘ivy,’ or why some of the imagery in the songs is wintery.”

LYRICS AND THEMES
Much of the 17 tracks on “evermore” are “mirrored or intersecting” tales, Taylor explained in the liner notes. These stories are dripping with murder and intrigue and tortured romance. Con artists and Hollywood dreamers inhabit the richly varied world of “evermore,” which in some ways is even more spellbinding than “folklore.” Co-writer and producer Aaron Dessner described his collaboration with Taylor as one of the most special musical connections of his life:

“I’ve rarely had this kind of chemistry with anyone in my life — to be able to write together, to make so many beautiful songs together in such a short period of time. Inevitably, I think we will continue to be in each other’s artistic and personal lives. I don’t know exactly what the next form that will take, but certainly, it will continue. I do think this story, this era, has concluded, and I think in such a beautiful way with these sister records — it does kind of feel like there’s closure to that.  [Hopefully,] there will be other records that appear in the future.” — Aaron Dessner

By painting “evermore” as mostly escapist fantasy, Taylor dispels the usual gossip hounds that slaver over her work, allowing the album to stand alone as its own weird and wonderful thing. The singer delights in slipping between personas: One minute, she’s reconnecting with a high-school sweetheart over the holidays, playing house at her parents’ home until she jets back to LA (“’tis the damn season“). The next, she’s haunting a small-town Olive Garden plotting revenge with the HAIM sisters (featured on the scorching “no body, no crime,” a mischievous return to Taylor’s country roots).

It wouldn’t be a Taylor album without a myriad of Easter eggs. “gold rush” namechecks past music (“My mind turns your life into folklore”), while “happiness” pulls liberally from “The Great Gatsby.” Seemingly named for Daisy’s first words in the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel (“I’m p-paralyzed with happiness”), the soothing ballad finds Taylor stepping into the character’s lovelorn shoes. “I hope she’ll be a beautiful fool who takes my spot next to you,” she laments to her former beau, pointing toward a “green light of forgiveness.” But the song’s gut punch comes moments later, as Taylor shrewdly observes, “There’ll be happiness after you but there was happiness because of you, too. Both of these things can be true.”

It’s that kind of elegant simplicity that makes Taylor’s songwriting so continually astonishing, planting daggers in your heart with tossed-off turns of phrase. “willow” and “tolerate it” are lyrical standouts about falling for less-than-stand-up guys, while “ivy” ranks among the most devastating love songs Taylor has ever written. (“My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand,” a married woman tells her lover. “Oh, I can’t stop you putting roots in my dreamland.”)

Other highlights of the more-than hourlong album include “marjorie,” a heart-rending tribute to Taylor’s late grandmother, and “champagne problems,” co-written by the once-mysterious William Bowery (a pseudonym for Taylor’s boyfriend Joe Alwyn). The latter song delicately recalls a rejected marriage proposal, and features an all-time opening line: “You booked the night train for a reason so you could sit there in this hurt.” It’s the kind of lyric that many songwriters would spend entire careers trying to write, telling us all we need to know about this character’s emotional state. That it comes so effortlessly to Taylor is the least surprising thing about “evermore.”

General Information
ReleasedDecember 11, 2020
Recorded2020
StudioLong Pond (Hudson, NY)
Scarlet Pimpernel (UK)
Ariel Rechtshaid’s house (LA)
GenreAlternative Rock
Chamber Rock
Indie Pop
Folk
Length60:38
LabelRepublic Records
ProducersAaron Dessner
Taylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
Bryce Dessner
Album Certification
Tracklist
Album Artwork
The "evermore" Chapters
Sister Album

folklore

evermore Era

evermore Era

evermore Songs

Taylor's Discography