Posted in Album Reviews

Taylor Swift – Midnights (2022)

The headlines that Taylor Swift has generated for her latest album, Midnights and her next tour have been staggering.  1.5 million units sold in its first week on sale, broken Spotify records for streams, and 10 songs in the top 10 singles chart.  When tickets for her 2023 concerts went on sale, it not only broke the hearts of fans left out of getting their hands on one but also broke Ticketmaster.

Music wise, first single “Anti-Hero” is a deep look at Swift’s own insecurities where she claims, “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror” over a mid-tempo pop beat. Once again working with Jack Antonoff in the producer chair, Swift sings with Lana Del Rey on “Snow on the Beach”. Their voices intertwine beautifully on the chorus on a track about lovers falling in love at the same time. Shimmering synths flow through “Bejeweled” before the sumptuous atmosphere of “Labryinth” that sees the protagonist fall in love after a hard break up, “I thought the plane was goin’ down/How’d you turn it right around?”

The colour “Maroon” runs through a relationship like “rust that grew between telephones” on the moody electronic track.  “Karma” recalls early noughties indie rock/electronic act CSS before the album closes with the bubbling synths of “Mastermind” where childhood trauma turns the protagonist into a scheming genius.  A few tracks lack some of Swift’s clever wordplay and could have been sung by anyone.  But far more often than not, Taylor Swift delivers a great pop songs on Midnights.

8/10

Advertisement
Posted in Album Reviews

Taylor Swift – evermore (2020)

evermore

In the summer of 2020, Taylor Swift stunned everyone by surprise releasing the album folklore.  The album topped both the charts and was high on year end critics’ polls.  In another surprise twist, Swift pulled the same trick and released it’s sister album evermore. Once again using Aaron Dessner from The National as a main producer is a continuing departure for the country pop star.  The sole track done with long time favourite Jack Antonoff is a stunner, “gold rush” compares “your hair falling into place like dominoes” over a drum machine beat.

Throughout the album, her lyrics and storytelling are often picture perfect. Swift visits her country origins on several songs including “champagne problems” where the protagonist turns down a marriage proposal and imagines another girl will “patch up your tapestry that I shred”.  First single, “willow” is laid back and compares her man to a number of different items.  “marjorie” is reportedly about her maternal grandmother who was an opera singer and how she left “all your closets of backlogged dreams”.

Like on folklore, Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver makes an appearance on the title track which also features a beautiful piano line.  The National’s Matt Berninger has been making the duet rounds recently and appears on “Coney Island” while sister group Haim appear on the crime story of “no body, no crime”.

Along with a Disney + release of the folklore special in November 2020, this release of another 17 songs included in the deluxe copy from December shows just how busy Swift was during the pandemic.    Whereas folklore was consistently great, evermore is consistently very good.  There is a wealth of riches to be found in both release as Taylor continues to expand her sound and empire.

8/10

Posted in Listed

Favourite Albums of 2020

Women In Music Pt. Iii

5.  Haim – Women in Music Pt. III:  Released in the early summer, it took another six months before I really listened to the third album from the Haim sisters. Employing a number of musical styles, the band released another set of great songs including their three stellar singles from 2019. Highlights include first track “Los Angeles” and the pop rock of “Don’t Wanna”.

A Hero's Death

4.  Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death:  The fiery rock of the band’s debut Dogrel was our favourite album from last year. The band further expanded their sound with added atmosphere and nuance particularly on “Living in America” and “Love is the Main Thing”. Second single “I Don’t Belong” was a highlight as the minimal instrumentation allows singer Grian Chatten’s weariness to shine.

Fetch The Bolt Cutters

3.  Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters:  Fiona Apple’s first album in 8 years was a staggering accomplishment. It caught many ears when it came out to a locked down world reeling from the early throws of the pandemic. The lyrics are raw as Apple recounts terrible dinner parties, arguments with bandmates, and the fury of “For Her”. “Shameika” is the standout track for it’s uplifting childhood story one liner told over a rollicking piano.

Miss Anthropocene (Vinyl)

2.  Grimes – Miss Anthropocene:  Over the past few years, Grimes has been in the media spotlight due to her relationship with billionaire Elon Musk. Not always putting her best boot forward, it’s not always easy being a Grimes fan. But then the latest album drops and all is forgiven. An atmospheric and cinematic delight, the highlights are many. After a few dense soundscapes, the acoustic guitar of “Delete Forever” is standout as is the club beats of “Violence” and pop chorus of “You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around”. Grimes is an enigma and truly wonderous musician.

folklore

1.  Taylor Swift – folklore:  Famously in the summer of 2019, pitchfork.com went back and reviewed all the Taylor Swift albums they had otherwise ignored over the years. A year later, Swift released a surprise album in July. She once again worked with Jack Antonoff but also with new collaborator Aaron Dessner from The National. This news was catnip to introspective 40 year old rock fans the world over. At 17 tracks, the album might be a tad long but jumping around, it’s hard to find a wrong note anywhere. Swift makes it sound easy on a run of tracks from “Mirrorball”, “Seven”, the pop of “August”, and the heartbreaking “This is Me Trying”. Then right at the end of the year, Taylor Swift released yet another surprise batch of songs that once again sent music fans scrambling to download and endlessly listen to while parsing through the lyrics.

Posted in Album Reviews

Taylor Swift – folklore (2020)

Folklore (Edited)

During the last few months when the world was in lockdown, people like Ryan Holiday spoke of alive vs dead time.  What can you do during these downtimes to make a difference in your life moving forward.  Whether it be working out, reading books, going for walks, working on relationships or various other projects. For Taylor Swift, that meant using the time that was meant for touring her Lover album and instead working with longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff as well a new working relationship with The National’s Aaron Dessner.

Swift’s eighth album, folklore appeared virtually out of nowhere on July 24th and was quickly followed by first single “Cardigan”, the first in a three song story about a teenage love triangle. The second in that cycle, “August”, co-written with Antonoff who called it the best thing they have ever done together. Here, it sounds like a track with other Anotonoff favourite Lana Del Rey with an earworm chorus. “Betty” takes on the point of view of a relationship from the male’s point of view as he tries to apologize for being a crap partner on his girlfriend’s doorstep.

On “Exile”, Bon Iver takes on the lead role of male in a song about a love falling apart. The piano takes centre stage with strings in the background, the production on the voices in the chorus is staggering. “The Last Great American Dynasty” sees Swift singing about Rebekah Harkness who previously owned a house that Swift bought and was constantly in the town’s gossip while she lived there.  Swift turns the lyric on it’s head in the last chorus –  “There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen/I had a marvelous time ruining everything”.

“Mirrorball” sees Swift sing the type of song that soft indie pop singers would kill for. “You’ll find me on my tallest tiptoes/Spinning in my highest heels, love”   “This is Me Trying” is a heartbreaking song where Swift’s voice hits an emotional high point as she pleads “I just wanted you to know that this is me trying/(at least I’m trying)” Her vocal inflections put in a good turn on “Invisible String” while “Mad Woman” tells of the men who drive the lady to madness behind the scenes.

Last year, the “Lover” duet remix with Shawn Mendes was a standout track.  A warm and touching song that Swift duplicates here many times over.  On folklore, she makes it sound so effortless to hit so many high points on various styles and emotions.  Working with great producers certainly helps but she is the spark that lights the fire.  This is a wonderful and story driven album that shows what Taylor Swift did during her alive time.

9/10