folklore: the long pond studio sessions
Concert Film & Live Album | November 25, 2020
folklore: the long pond studio sessions sees Taylor perform all 17 tracks of her eighth studio album, folklore (2020), while discussing the creative process behind the songs with her co-producers Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff at Dessner’s Long Pond Studio, a rural haven in Hudson, N.Y. The film also features a guest appearance from Justin Vernon from the band Bon Iver. Identical to the release of folklore, the film was also a surprise release, announced hours before its launch at midnight.
The film is Taylor’s fourth to be released on a streaming service, following The 1989 World Tour Live (2015), Taylor Swift: reputation Stadium Tour (2018), and Miss Americana (2020). The long pond studio sessions received widespread critical acclaim, with praise towards its music, intimacy, visuals, and insight provided on folklore. Many critics labeled the film an admirable supplement to the album.
In September 2020, Taylor and her co-producers for her eighth studio album, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, assembled together at Long Pond Studio—a secluded, rustic cabin in upstate New York—to play the complete album for the first time in the same room after isolating themselves separately due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The result was the intimate documentary, folklore: the long pond studio sessions, where Taylor performs the stripped-down renditions of all 17 tracks in order, while revealing the creative process, stories, and inspirations behind the songs through cozy discussions.
folklore: the long pond studio sessions is a hybrid between a documentary and a concert film. It marked the first time Taylor, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff had assembled together in person after several months of Covid-19 quarantining. Due to the pandemic, they were filmed not by a film crew, but instead by six Panasonic Lumix S1H mirrorless cameras with Leica lenses embedded in the studio, along with one Arri Alexa LF with an Angénieux 24-290 lens on an Furio robotic camera with more than 30 feet of curved track that occasionally scanned the recording session from the background. A drone camera was also used to capture aerial shots of the studio and the surrounding forested estate. Justin Vernon appeared via video stream from Eau Claire, Wisconsin to perform “exile” with Taylor. Aaron Dessner said:
“It’s funny, because it was very DIY in a sense; a tight little small crew was there to do it, nobody was styling us or fixing our hair or anything like that, it’s very authentic. I rehearsed a little bit before, but both of us — Jack and I — were pretty much figuring it out as we went. And I think the nice thing is that all of the songs could work like that, and that’s partly a testament to the strength of the album. Without big production tricks or backing vocals or anything like that, the songs stand up, and Taylor just sang the crap out of them. And hanging out with them was so much fun. They’re kind of like siblings almost; they’ve known each other a long time, there’s this quick humor between them.” — Aaron Dessner
The film is characterized by a casual, small-scale production and a cottagecore aesthetic. Apart from a few home videos of Taylor at her home studio in Los Angeles (California), the film was entirely recorded at Long Pond Studios in New York’s Hudson Valley—one of the places where folklore was engineered. The studio, originally a barn, had been converted into a cozy wooden cabin situated in a waterfront estate besides an elongated pond and surrounded by chairs, string lights and fire pits. Inside the studio, Taylor performed seated on a couch in an oversized plaid shirt-dress, singing directly into a microphone, with Antonoff and Dessner playing instruments and engineer Johnathan Lowe in the back of the room. The musical instruments used in the film include a variety of guitars, keyboards, a Fender bass, a piano, a drum machine and a snare.
The big twist is that the September sessions were the first time that Taylor, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner were together in the same place. During the pandemic, they had each recorded in their own studios, collaborating long-distance. In a nighttime conversation on a deck at the studio, Taylor said that playing the songs in real time would “make [her] realize it’s a real album. It seems like a big mirage.” Musicians deeply missed performing live; with any other album, she would have gone to tour stadiums.
folklore: the long pond studio sessions received universal acclaim from film and music critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 100% based on 11 reviews, with an average rating of 7.30/10. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone praised the cast’s chemistry, and asserted that the long pond studio sessions film is not a mere footnote to the album, but a “stunning musical statement in its own right, full of stripped-down acoustic warmth”. He underlined how Taylor moves past basic anecdotes about the tracks by explaining why she felt the need to write such music in the first place.
folklore: the long pond studio sessions won the “Grand Award for Special or Variety” at the 2021 Gracie Awards, which are bestowed by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation to honor standout women in the media industry and regocnize entertainment.
folklore: the long pond studio sessions (from the Disney+ special) is Taylor’s third live album. It contains all 17 recordings from folklore: the long pond studio sessions. The album was released to streaming and digital platforms on November 25, 2020, alongside the film. It consists of two discs: the live recordings constitute the second disc, while the first disc is the original deluxe album.
|Released||November 25, 2020|
|Running Time||134 minutes|
|Released||November 25, 2020|
|Studio||Long Pond (Hudson Valley, NY)|