Taylor Swift
Evermore



Release Date: 12/10/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: forever, and then some.

There’s a simplicity to Taylor Swift’s music that feels almost entirely interchangeable throughout her respective ‘eras.’ This is not a criticism. She’s a professional through and through, and while she’s had her issues with bloated tracklists and the odd stylistic mishap, the shape of her lyrical narratives and the clarity of her vocal tone have transferred naturally to whichever guises she’s set for herself thus far. It’s besides the point that this often seems shallow or rooted in persona rather than personality; that’s her craft. Whoever Taylor Swift was from era to era, her consistent draw was that we could always take her talents seriously without having to engage with her work as quote-unquote serious music.

To this end, her volte-face into indie folk on both this album and July’s Folklore had ambivalent implications for her. This sound is so sober and concertedly tasteful that she sacrificed a lot of the deceptively vital frivolities that fuelled her pop charm, producing the same kind of dull indie that a million and one dull indie bands are already excruciatingly competent at churning out like spare oxygen. It’s aesthetically impressive to hear her layering her songwriting over these sparing arrangements on individual songs, but the effect does not hold up across an entire album. Evermore doesn’t take long to belie the kind of flaws that producer Jack Antonoff and others were able to camouflage on past outings; with this album entirely centred around Swift’s voice and lyrics, her fixation on the same basic strands of romantic subject matter wears far thinner than fifteen iterations of overlapping narrative standpoints could hope to sustain. It does not help that many of these songs are rooted in the same Aaron Dessner-patented piano economisations that turned the National’s I Am Easy To Find into such an interminable snooze, or that Swift recycles vocal melodies across the album. Just listen to “’Tis The Damn Season”, “Tolerate It”, “Ivy” and “Long Story Short” back-to-back; the way these songs clutch onto the same shared hook (you’ll know the one) suggests exactly the kind of target audience that will be easily pleased by very little. Some writing habits are harder to break than others, I guess.

With the door largely closed to the dumb fun and melodrama of yesteryear’s Taylor Swift(s), Evermore runs into stagnancy. In the face of all this, the sheer hamminess of the HAIM collab “No Body, No Crime”’s whodunnit narrative stands as a welcome moment of levity. Other departures from the album’s central aesthetic are mixed: “Gold Rush” is an actively grating exhibition of overplayed Antonoff-isms at their most redundant, while “Closure” grounds itself with an intermittent industrial beat that accentuates its stance of indifference to the titular theme with the sensitivity of stale cheesecake. Folklore balanced a varied palette better, with the dreamy pop of “Mirrorball” and “Epiphany”’s foray into ambience standing comfortably among its highlights; Evermore is overly comfortable within its framework of indie tropes and struggles to succeed outside of them.

Outside of “No Body, No Crime“, bringing in extra voices does little to remedy this. The National’s appearance on “Coney Island” is a token cameo on a listless track, while Bon Iver’s entrance on the title track is overwrought and histrionic, smothering a slowburner that Swift could have carried perfectly well by herself. On this basis, it’s perhaps no surprise that the album highlight “Dorothea” is also the track that shows her at her least inhibited, stepping bolding into the swing of a lively ballad with an exuberance largely lacking elsewhere. The tracks’s wistful what-ifs and memory lane-isms are a rare example of Swift’s conservative songwriting and familiar storytelling style resonating beyond the sum of their parts on this album. “Ivy” is another highlight for similar reasons, its banjo-backed jangle and tale of ill-advised love both falling within the realm of things Swift has been excellent at since her early years.

For all the razzle-dazzle of its surprise release, I’m struck by how hard it is to draw a lasting overall impression from the record. It adds little to the reinvention established by Folklore and doesn’t deepen her work within this sound in particularly convincing terms. I want to credit her at least for keeping up an industrious streak, but this alone would seem patronising. That leaves us with fifteen new songs to chalk up to Taylor Swift’s Spotify page and personal capital; the world spins around. As per usual, her ability to manipulate the music industry and surrounding circuits at her own pace is more impressive than most of her actual output - this is the kind of album that clogs your newsfeed with articles about bonus track announcements within twenty-four hours of release, before you have even heard it. Kudos where it’s due; such things are not to be taken for granted. However, it is a shame that we will likely remember this record as little more than a secondary iteration of that time Taylor Swift went indie in 2020. There’s an obvious irony behind the title, which Swift herself explores within the title-track: the 「evermore」of this song is set up as an unending depression that is eventually transfigured into a ray of optimism; its gist lies in embracing the ephemeral rather than the eternal. A strong message to be sure, but one that ends up as an unflattering synecdoche.



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user ratings (235)
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 12th 2020


33254 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

[deletes account]

Digging: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - Carnage

parksungjoon
December 12th 2020


27815 Comments


baste and chadpilled

Digging: The Sisters of Mercy - Temple of Love / Heartland

sixdegrees
December 12th 2020


11132 Comments


oh nononono

BenThatsMyJamin
December 12th 2020


3792 Comments


"Epithany"

parksungjoon
December 12th 2020


27815 Comments


epityme

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 12th 2020


33254 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

reproted

Lucman
December 12th 2020


5148 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This makes me very sad.... but I expected it.

BenThatsMyJamin
December 12th 2020


3792 Comments


johnny you're a synecDOUCHE

Jots
Staff Reviewer
December 12th 2020


7325 Comments


rip ⚰️ condolences to false Johnny’s friends and family


BenThatsMyJamin
December 12th 2020


3792 Comments


stop he's already dead

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 12th 2020


33254 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

lol my ex-friends were all taylor stans

hugh is a lone ranger

Brinner
December 12th 2020


65 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thank you for the review - well-written and I agree with many of your thoughts. The album is a really nice listen in parts and I think I'll settle on a 3.0 once I've given it a few more spins.

parksungjoon
December 12th 2020


27815 Comments


realistically i will probably go my whole life without hearing a whole album by this lady, but im throwing my support behind you regardless mr wellington

AngelaOlsson
December 12th 2020


36 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

'evermore' manages to surpass her older sister 'folklore' with better melodies, more interesting songwriting and appropriate vibes for the season it's released in. Bon Iver needs to use his lower voice and avoid falsetto from now on, though.

Slex
December 12th 2020


10923 Comments


Johnny I hate you

Pikazilla
December 12th 2020


15025 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Johnny, you deserve all the pos's in the world for this review *pats back*

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 12th 2020


36733 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

For reasons I can't explain, this was losing me quickly on each successive listen yesterday (4x), but then on my first listen today the entire thing sounded lovely. I'm bumping to a 4. Somehow I still agree with most of this review though; the only thing I can think of is that I'm too invested in Swift to admit the flaws I can clearly see are there. Kudos for a solid objective write up.



Edit: My score bump moved this to a 3.6 which is probably undeserved but feels good anyway :-)

Digging: Julien Baker - Little Oblivions

earlisonline
December 12th 2020


1 Comments


come on what the fuck is this

and that Justin Bieber album (which is a total shit) even got a higher score than this record..... lmao please this album is a 3.9-4.5

nolerthebowler
December 12th 2020


7744 Comments


Yeah, this is sputnik dot com, where we are just head over heels for Justin Bieber.

mynameischan
Emeritus
December 12th 2020


1767 Comments


Good review but the last sentence is repetitive. The word “synecdoche” implies “of the album as a whole”



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