15. Coney Island feat. The National
After borrowing Aaron Dessner from The National for Folklore, Swift corrals the full band for “Coney Island,” a duet with singer Matt Berninger in which the two musical approaches meet in the middle. Whereas “Exile,” the Folklore duet with Bon Iver, was founded upon escalated drama, “Coney Island” rests on the gentle recollections of a pair that has shared a world, with Berninger’s soothing rumble returning every volley from Swift.
As she did on Folklore songs like “The Last Great American Dynasty” and “Betty,” Swift creates emotional stakes on “Dorothea” by zooming in on passed-down narratives and singing from a new perspectives. The backstories of the characters in “Dorothea” are less crucial than the drama that Swift constructs: a separation, a skipped prom and other well-worn memories, swinging alongside a guitar and tambourine.
13. Gold Rush
“Gold Rush” begins with a red herring, as Swift’s layered vocals shimmer in a manner that immediately recalls the Folklore standout “Mirrorball”; after a few seconds, however, the song finds a pulsating rhythm as Swift rapidly spills her jealous feelings and longstanding insecurities (“What must it be like to grow up that beautiful?” she wonders). “Gold Rush” keeps the listener guessing as it swivels in different directions, with drums, horns and violins flushing out Swift’s confessions.
One of Evermore’s most brutal breakup songs exists within one of its most ornate arrangements, as woozy synthesizers morph into programmed beats, hi-hats, violin and bass. If a song like “Tolerate It” chronicles the dissolution of an unhappy pairing, “Happiness” captures the post-split scramble — trying to figure out who you are now, what this means, why this has happened, whether there’s a whisper of reconciliation. Swift prods at her deepest scars, and the orchestration makes the pain sound essential.
11. Champagne Problems
During a different Taylor Swift era, “Champagne Problems” would make the back of a track list, an affecting piano ballad that helps balance out the pop onslaught. On Evermore, however, the song is positioned in the No. 2 slot as an opening salvo and centerpiece, with a quiet sense of hurt growing louder as the song’s story of a shriveled romance — Swift’s narrator watching a past love move on, their bond frozen in time — turns more urgent. It’s a lump-in-throat highlight that sets the tone for the album that follows.
10. Evermore feat. Bon Iver
Anyone who wrapped their arms around the unsparing ache in Bon Iver’s falsetto on For Emma, Forever Ago will get chills listening to “Evermore,” an aching interplay between Swift and Justin Vernon that hits unexpected speed midway through and reaches a thrilling high as they try to synchronize their voices. “Evermore” offers a cold, somber ending to the album of the same name that matches the grandeur of Folklore’s “Exile” and will steel your heart for winter.
9. Tolerate It
If Folklore examined the complexities of adult relationships in stark contrast to the star-crossed romances of her early records, a song like “Tolerate It” takes that study one step further, with Swift reckoning with the malaise of her partner to the point of resentment. The exercise is devastating for anyone who’s suspected an approaching ending, or watched a spark within someone they trust disappear: “If it’s all in my head, tell me now,” Swift pleads, “tell me I’ve got it wrong somehow.”
8. Cowboy Like Me
On a song that finds Swift circling around thoughts of love, independence and commitment in the context of another with a similar mindset, she and Dessner offer an ambitious mix of folk, sun-kissed alternative and a whiff of the country music that Swift was once rooted in. “Cowboy Like Me” shoots for the stars musically — harmonica, mandolin, piano, and hey, there’s Marcus Mumford credited with vocals — and grows into one of the album’s most decadent listens.
7. ’Tis The Damn Season
“You could call me ‘babe’ for the weekend,” Swift tells an old acquaintance during a trip home for the holidays, knocking around old haunts and wondering what might have been. The storytelling concept of “’Tis The Damn Season” comes as a change-up, but each lyrical detail sparkles, and Dessner’s electric guitar clangs on like a memory Swift can’t escape; the song wouldn’t sound too out of place on Speak Now or Red, but her voice is wiser now, and guides this one home.
After the thirteenth song on Folklore, “Epiphany,” referenced the military service of Swift’s grandfather, track 13 on Evermore is named after her grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, who passed away when Swift was 13 years old. As she shares her memories and grasps for more artifacts of their bond, “Marjorie” serves as a personal testament to a transformative presence in Swift’s life — and a glimpse into her own backstory, on an album that explores so many others.
The lead single and opening track on Evermore returns listeners to the world that Swift constructed on Folklore with the help of Dessner: indie-folk orchestration, drum machines placed next to a glockenspiel, lingering similes in the verses (“I’m like the water when your ship rolled in that night,” Swift begins) giving way to a breathless, direct chorus (“The more that you say, the less I know / Wherever you stray, I follow”). Like the best songs on Folklore, “Willow” marries the power of Swift’s songwriting with the type of careful production details that fans can explore and eventually wrap themselves in.
Ever been treated like garbage by someone, then time passes, and that someone reaches back out to you to apologize and absolve themselves from blame? On “Closure,” Swift rejects such false niceties, and does so over a skittering arrangement that recalls mid-period Radiohead’s occasional instrument pile-ups. Such a production would have been unthinkable on a Swift album a few years ago — now, she blends in brass, strings and beats to her pop approach, and serves up one of Evermore’s most daring highlights.
If you’re the type of listener who can cherish a lyric as folksy as “My house of stone / Your ivy grows, and now I’m covered in you,” this will surely be one of your Evermore favorites. The gorgeous“Ivy” follows a run of higher-concept songs on a track list with a simple tale of stolen romance, and Swift sells the literal affair with one of the album’s jauntiest choruses and lots of ticking instrumentation in the background (keep an ear open for Justin Vernon’s backing vocals).
2. No Body, No Crime feat. Haim
One presses play on a collaboration between Taylor Swift and Haim — fellow album of the year Grammy nominees who have made some of the most vital pop-rock of the past decade — with lofty expectations. “No Body, No Crime” surpasses them: a self-referential, delightfully macabre revenge tale with a quick-witted twang and a, er, killer hook, the team-up recalls a getting-even opus from another best-selling trio — the Chicks’ classic “Goodbye Earl” — and provides some levity on the Evermore track list. Let’s hope this precedes a Swift-Haim Grammys showcase, and then, a joint stadium tour.
1. Long Story Short
More than perhaps any other song on Evermore, “Long Story Short” crystallizes one of Swift’s greatest strengths as a songwriter: creating music that is deceptively simple but is bursting with layers and moving pieces. The indie-rock instrumentation is dense but never overcrowded, and Swift soars above the guitar chugs and string flourishes, framing her personal redemption as the reason she’s been able to better open her heart to another. You can try to unpack “Long Story Short,” or you can yelp along with that kicky post-chorus vocal hook — there’s no wrong move here.
Women in Music 2020: The Full Recap | Billboard News