Pop Culture Happy Hour - Taylor Swift's 'Evermore'

On Friday, Dec. 11, just four and a half months after she released the heavily Grammy-nominated Folklore, Taylor Swift released her ninth album, Evermore. Swift describes Evermore as a "sister" album to Folklore, and once again, she's crafting moody and autumnal folk songs with Aaron Dessner of The National, Jack Antonoff and Bon Iver.

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Rough on the surface, but they cut through why can't Taylor Swift just let us live on Friday just four and a half months after she released the heavily grammy-nominated. Folklore Taylor Swift released her ninth album Evermore.

Swift describes Evermore as a sister album to Folklore and once again, she's crafting Moody an autumnal folk song. I'm Stephen Thompson. And today we are talking about Taylor Swift's new album Evermore on pop culture. Happy hour from NPR, so don't go away.

Support for NPR in the following message come from the new Showtime limited series your honor and edge of your seat Thriller starring Bryan Cranston. Your honor is the story of a respected New Orleans judge whose teenage son is involved in a hit-and-run what follows is a deadly game of Lies deceit and impossible choices your honor premiering December 6th on Showtime trial 30 days free then just 899 for Life go to showtime.com terms apply new customers only welcome back joining us from St. Petersburg. Florida is NPR music's very own Taylor Swift correspondent, Lindsay McKenna. Hi Lindsay. Hi Steven Ray to talk to you yet again about Taylor Swift some more yet again. When are we not talking about Taylor really? Well when she's not putting out an album, which is never. Okay. So Taylor Swift has done a remarkable job making people feel unproductive during the pandemic in July. She released folklore, which was very

How much a pandemic record its interior and stately and beautiful and very consistent and it's been enormously well-received it's nominated for a bunch of Grammys including album of the year, which I suspect it will win and now four and a half months later. She's released Evermore the album shares many of the same collaborators as she had on folklore including Aaron dessner of the national and Jack Antonoff Evermore does bring in more guest vocalists. In addition to the return of Bon Iver is Justin Vernon. We hear the voices of time Marcus Mumford and the National's Matt Bernier. You are a Taylor Swift super fan and a national superfan. So you continue to be super served by 2020. What do you think of Evermore first of all because not many people are getting a thing that they want this year. It's been an incredibly tough year all around. So thank you to Taylor Swift. Thank you to Jack Antonoff. What do I think of Evermore feels Campo?

Because folklore really took me by such surprise Taylor Swift did something that she hadn't really done before which is not have this protracted album roll out here again with Evermore. We have the element of surprise that just, you know, some 16 hours in advance. She announced that the record was coming to be clear. I like Evermore. Do I like folklore a little bit more right now, you know after just my initial couple of spins after trying to dive into the lyrics right now, I feel like it's less even I think that you touched on something that really was profound to me about folklore is that it was so consistent that across-the-board it felt like you didn't have these really clear weak spots. Like she's hot on some of her previous records. I think she's always struggled with identifying singles that are really reflective and I felt like cardigan was like actually a good pick will always a good choice. I think there's like such clear cohesion. She's drawing a literal string of golden thread in the video.

Between Willow and cardigan so clearly there's a continuity. I think there's a cohesion to the work but I also feel like perhaps some of the musicianship of the performers again working with these collaborators who are very common to sort of NPR music artist favorite, maybe Max some of the weirdness and clunkiness of the lyrics. I like that. She's a little more abstract. I like that. She's again creating these narratives that are really like the tailed and evocative but I do think that there are some moments that feel a little clunky a little not quite right like doesn't stick The Landing quite as like extravagantly and beautifully but again, like she's really doing something sparse and intricate and unique. Yeah, I agree with you pretty much across-the-board. I think the word that kept coming back to me about folklore and I kind of Revisited that album for the first time in a while recently is how unbelievably consists

I think it is 17. Excellent songs. I kind of think it's 17 three and a half star songs with there's not quite like that one Perfect song that clearly Towers Above the Rest, but I think folklore is incredibly consistent. I think this album is spottier. It's looser. She's trying a few different things. She kind of plays around like with this kind of murder ballad that she does with hi. I'm mat burning her from the national pops up in a way that I found really jarring. I actually don't care as much for her Duets as I do for just her singing her own songs and not kind of trying to shoehorn other voices than to them. That's kind of been a recurring thing for me with her. I do think this record is still very strong. I think it's another good record. I think you do you start to get diminishing returns when you are talking about depending on how you define the number of tracks on this album the 32 or 34 songs that are kind of all drowsily.

Tamil folk music you start to get some diminishing returns when you're talking about that many songs in the span of like five months. I do think this album has a career-high white for her and I think the fun like folklore which I think is 17. Excellent songs. I think Evermore has one absolute four star fantastic song in what I think should be a new holiday standard the song to the damn season was actually here a little bit of it.

Steve Irwin

so my first reaction to this song was the that guitar line is absolutely devastating and I gasped the first time I heard it. It's so beautiful and then I started to pick apart the song which is getting at a truth about the holidays and about hometowns and about Nostalgia that I hadn't really heard a song get out before and that is an unbelievably difficult feat to pull off. This is a song about going back to your hometown around the holidays and like re encountering somebody you had a romance with when you were like 17 and the very first line of that song and I don't have the number. I just basically like, I don't know who you've been with I would have asked you at some point in the last however many years if I cared like it is getting it this real ambivalence and just kind of

Full of your past and it is a magnificent song and it really for me hit home like meant she is extraordinary really talented. I think she continues to be kind of a frustrating artist. I often say about her that she manages to be very self-conscious without always being self-aware and I think that kind of continues to be true but right there that song is a master class and it should not be lost on us that in addition to being very prolific. She is a very very very talented songwriter Taps into her deliberateness. I think that there has always been a discussion of like Taylor Swift as biography and autobiography and I think here regardless of whether this is based on a personal experience based on some sort of like a universal experience again, like what you talked about this idea of going back to your hometown like there is clearly a literary element and also like an interpersonal like this is a somatic

She mentioned in that song Mud at tracks on truck tires. And I love thinking about this song sorter harkening back to sort of like those early like country songs from her earliest days to me. There's this element of looking back at her catalog that is happening on this folklore Evermore era. She has both the artistic growth of experimenting and having some like really disastrous experiment but also some really winning winning moments. The other thing that you rightfully pointed out is that those guitars again this feels like such a wonderful musical match for the way that she has this sort of cadence again. I think I said this last time around that she's not the best singer and that's okay, but she does delivered with such like intent and deliberation. Like I said, I think that here again you get the sense that she recognizes her faults recognizes her capabilities and really like

When she falls back to some of the same literary elements, this feels actually novel. There's a continuity element that tracks across her discography. But this also puts her in a really forward-thinking place. I think it's worth noting when you say like, she's not the best singer or whatever. That's not a knock on her at all like me the history of rock and folk music is absolutely festooned with people who have vocal limitations and are still able to get at incredible profound heartfelt truth. I mean having like impeccable vocals is not always a strength when you're talking about conveying feelings. And I think she's very Deft at singing conversationally and that very very tricky thing to pull off to get back to one of my kind of central critiques of the album to put out this year. I think these two albums really prove how effective she can be as a

Collaborator from a songwriting standpoint, but I don't think she is yet a particularly effective collaborator as a vocalist. I don't particularly take to how her voice matches up with that of Matt berninger or Justin Vernon. And those are two singers whose work. I am on record as pretty deeply loving but I don't think their voices do particularly well together. I think I'm almost entirely disappears from the song that they're on. What do you think of her as like a vocal collaborator worksheet and some wheat collaborators. It makes sense that she would go to Ed Sheeran sort of someone that she was a mentor to you or wasn't actually of hers here. I prefer doesn't burn his collaboration with Taylor Swift on this record. Then I did the collaboration that was on folklore Exile. That's more the, you know person of the woods the cabin the Lionel

Innovation that really has come through in the last couple of one of their records and why do we actually hear a little bit of that Boulevard collaboration? It's the title track ever more.

to brag

grab the light

Play like that Justin Vernon brings that to this project as you can tell the Taylor Swift in they're collaborating with this group of people who have worked together, you know, the national Bon Iver they're all sort of of this cohorts. So I like that there is a confidence and an artistic Freedom the Hime track. I'm on the fence about I feel like it's an attempt at some camp that doesn't really get there for me.

SD was there Tuesday night was my favorite of the year, but this does not feel like it's really like either of their best work. It's fun. Olive Garden mention got a laugh out of me. And what did I expect an actual song credited to the National and Taylor Swift to sound like not Coney Island. I think that they're sort of a theatrical element that doesn't quite get there for me again, like all of what she's trending towards on this record, but I don't know if she sticks The Landing as much here that completely I think you and I are one last question before we go Lindsey McKenna, you follow the creator of Taylor Swift's pretty closely Taylor Swift leaves a lot of Easter eggs. She can leave drops a lot of hints that people don't even realize our hands until later. Where do you think she goes from?

Do you think this is part 2 of a Trilogy like we're going to be back here in March having yet another conversation about Taylor Swift killer moment. Taylor Swift has promised to re-record her original albums. In order to free them sort of from the grip of Scooter Braun and his holding company. She is already started that as we know through a match.com ad but she has not completed at she said on Twitter there is talk of this could be a Trilogy here is my counters that I feel like you are right Steven to say that these albums are a little bloated, you know, 17 tracks or 15 packs with bonus tracks. That's a lot and in the streaming era that sort of feels like a commercial necessity but in my diet brief write-up for and hear music I said that I felt this particular moment in Taylor Swift's sort of career trajectory is marked by artistic freedom and at the same time. She's untethered from the X.

She said that she makes a record that sounds like X or Y. She's made these experimental intricate sort of subdued like definitely not radio friendly pop albums. Does she continue to go in this direction? Does she make the Joni Mitchell singer-songwriter or the early country sound that folks have been clamoring for I don't know if that makes the most sense. I do think that those reworkings are off in the distance at some point just for the sake of like learning the back catalogue money from licensing, but does that mean that there is folklore Evermore something more and those re-recording styes a lot and I definitely care about this artist, but I do not want the market to be completely oversaturated with Taylor Swift Maniac. Yeah. I mean, I think it is telling that we went from this new Taylor Swift record in July is great to in the intro. Why won't Taylor Swift let us live. We want to know what you think about.

Evermore find us at facebook.com PCH and on Twitter at PCH that brings us to the end of our show. Thanks so much for being here Lindsay Steven. And of course, thank you for listening to pop culture. Happy hour from NPR. If you have a second, please subscribe to our newsletter at NPR. Org pop culture newsletter will see you all right back here tomorrow when we'll be talking about the HBO Max series the flight attendant.

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