“folklore:” Made in Isolation, For Isolation

(Photo above via Taylor Swift)

Earlier this week, I wrote a review of the movie “Palm Springs.” In it, I declared the movie was the perfect watch to treat quarantine blues. While I stand by that, I can now add that Taylor Swift’s new album, “folklore,” is the perfect listen.

I don’t know why we keep getting blessed by great media, but I’m not taking it for granted. (Some other recommendations that have been released since quarantine began: “Mrs. America” on Hulu and Phoebe Bridgers’ album “Punisher.”) Certainly something about these extraordinary circumstances has inspired Taylor Swift to write, produce, and release an entire album “in isolation,” and we are all the better for it.

This album is a practice in introspection. It shows that it was written during times like these, when all there is to do is scour your own mind and replay old scenarios in your head. The lyrics are mature, a showing of someone who has evaluated their past behavior and is remorseful of it. In particular, there are two explicit apology songs, “betty” and “this is me trying,” though “mirrorball” may also serve as an explanation for past misdoings. Apologies are rare occurrences in Swift’s total discography, with “Back to December” and “Afterglow” the only examples before this most recent album.

Other songs reference specifics from Swift’s past, telling stories of small moments. She has an ability to craft songs out of the tiniest details like no one else can. And even though these are personal to Swift, she somehow doesn’t exclude anyone from relating to them nonetheless. The content of these types of songs, like “betty” and “invisible string,” remind me most of her earlier music, like things from her self-titled album or more recent individual songs, like “Cornelia Street.” These types of songs have always been my favorites because they feel much more authentic than generalized pop songs intended to appeal to the largest audience possible. “folklore” is an entire album of these intimate stories.

Also a departure from her pop star days, this album contains no upbeat, radio-friendly songs. There is no traditional, standout single in the 16-track offering. Instead, the piece of work is cohesive and has an indie-folk/pop sound, similar to The Lumineers. Some songs sound very reminiscent of Lana Del Ray, specifically “cardigan,” which has a more sultry sound than Swift normally uses, and “invisible string,” which sounds very similar to Del Ray’s song “Norman fucking Rockwell.” And the folksy, woodsy sound of the album is akin to Father John Misty (especially “seven”) and Bon Iver, who features on “exile.”

Basically, this is the cottagecore album of your dreams. Set aside an hour and three minutes to be alone and listen to this album in its entirety. That’s how it was made to be consumed — in isolation.

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Written by Abby Sacks

Student at the University of Virginia studying Psychology and Media Studies. When not writing or hanging out with my cat, can be found watching too much bad TV and being too old for TikTok but enjoying it anyway.

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