As someone who is wearing a peasant blouse, I am very pleased that Taylor Swift has chosen to represent my community by releasing her eighth studio album folklore today (all lower case have some respect), announced yesterday as a surprise.
Less than a year after her previous record Lover, which toed a line between her earlier and latter era personas, folklore leans right back into the barn conversion country-pop that Taylor Swift is most beloved for, harkening back to the sounds she trademarked on her best record, 2012’s Red.
Made with collaborators like The National’s Aaron Dessner (who co-produced the record with Swift and Jack Antonoff) and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, the record is as warm a cabin-in-the-woods listen as the involvement of those musicians would lead you to expect, all tall trees, airy production, bonfires and tasteful knits that cost more than your house.
Speaking of, the lead track for the album is “Cardigan,” for which a music video (above) dropped alongside the record. Considering the fact that to accompany the song and video she also released an actual cardigan, retailing at $49.99, it seems only fair and fitting to mark the return of Pumpkin Spice Taylor by designating every other song on folklore a cardigan too.
“the 1” – light, transitional cardigan
The jaunty step of this song reminds me of a walk around a city in the autumn (in the same way that 1989’s first track “Welcome to New York” also does), leaves crunching underfoot. It’s the sort of walk for which you might wear a light, cotton cardi – nothing too heavy, mind you, seeing as how the air still gets a bit sticky at times, the sun low in the September sky – arriving at the park to sit wistfully on a bench, thinking about your ex and hoping everyone is noticing how sad but also how improbably chic you look.
“cardigan” – this already has its own cardigan
You do have to step back for a second and admire what a sheer feat of branding it is for Taylor Swift to release an album, on the cover of which she’s wearing a big massive coat, accompanied by cardigan merch. The woman knows what she is selling!
“the last great american dynasty” – whatever cardigan they wore in the 1930s
As well as being one of the best songs on the record, and possibly of Taylor Swift’s entire career (I do not make the rules, she is simply very good indeed at renderings of early-to-mid 20th century American wealth!), this song has a real world story, in that it is about Rebekah Harkness – the one-time wife of William Hale Harkness, one of the wealthiest men in America at the time – who previously owned Swift’s Rhode Island house. The song draws a fairly clear and very engaging allegory between Harkness’ treatment by polite society and the media at the time, and Swift’s own past trials by social media and the press.
“exile” – demonstrably horrible and old, but weirdly comforting cardigan you only wear when something bad has happened
I have this old Calvin Klein jumper with bleach stains all over it that I wear when I feel sad, and this song – The One With Bon Iver – would be the cardigan equivalent of that. The massive cardigan you wear for three weeks, until it has to be peeled off you and then binned by a benevolent friend, because you have unfortunately been dumped.
“my tears ricochet” – something billowing
The spacious backing vocals in this song put me in mind of a cardigan that would catch a bit of air if you moved dramatically in it. There’s also some references to haunting and ghosts, so I see something drapey, potentially robe-like.
“mirrorball” – bolero
When I made my first Holy Communion (Christian sacrament in which you eat a wafer which represents the physical body of Jesus Christ; in the Catholic version you do this aged seven and if you are a girl you get dressed up like a tiny bride, it’s so normal!), I got made to wear a little cropped jacket thing called a bolero, which is sort of like an event cardigan. To me “mirrorball” very much evokes bolero energy – the film that this song plays in my head takes place at like, a party or some other function, where the narrator is dancing with someone in slow motion and gazing at them lovingly and they are gazing back and everyone involved in this moment will think back on it at various points in their life – like when they’re just trying to park the car, or making a tea or something – and feel unbearably sad.
“seven” – cable knit
“Just like a folk song / Our love will be passed on,” sings Taylor. “seven” is classic, it is timeless. As is the king of knits, cable.
“august” – no cardigans no rules just bare shoulders bitch
Considering that by releasing this palpably autumnal album in late July, Taylor Swift has effectively placed a question mark over the validity of the remaining summer, she at least deigns to nod to the height of the season with this breezy suntan of a song, which evokes bare shoulders against white bedsheets with open windows, and therefore does not embody a cardigan. Separately I do have to say I await with baited breath next month’s influx of sunset pics, captioned “august sipped away like a bottle of wine sparkle emoji”.
“this is me trying” – Arran cardi with wooden toggles, for sitting in front of the bonfire on which you have figuratively placed your old self
No further comment.
“illicit affairs” – a cardigan that would be worn by the character Lina in the book ‘Three Women’
This is literally all I could think of when I listened to this song, apologies for referencing a “book.” (I will say that this is not necessarily an endorsement of Three Women, on which I have complicated feelings, involving but not limited to a strong objection to the sex scene involving a Cadbury’s Creme Egg.)
“invisible string” – long cardigan that you can imagine a violinist wearing
A long cardigan is the most violinist-type garment, do not ask me why, it’s just one of those things that is beyond the capability of mere words to explain. Relatedly, have you noticed that there are string instruments playing all over this song which is called “invisible string”? Very pleasingly literal stuff!
“mad woman” – black, dignified cardigan
This is probably the Scooter Braun Song (Braun owns all of Swift’s masters, as the owner of Big Machine Label Group, to which Swift was signed for her first six records; Swift expressed anger about this when Braun bought Big Machine, because she believed that her “musical legacy was about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it”). Is there something very cinematic about the thought of her (or anyone, for that matter) delivering the words “There’s nothing like a mad woman,” in a reserved twinset, while fantasising about setting fire to shit? Or is that just me?
“epiphany” – in my notes I wrote “A CARDIGAN THAT THEY WOULD WEAR ON GREY’S ANATOMY” in all caps
In fairness to me a) we’re getting to the end, and b) it does sort of sound like a song they’d play on Grey’s when someone is about to die, doesn’t it?
“betty” – couldn’t think of a cardigan because it made me cry
This is a proper, imperial era Taylor Swift throwback – storytelling, teen romance, bright acoustic guitar, a harmonica. This album’s “Cruel Summer” in that it is the best song. I have no cardigans to offer because all my brain can tell me is how much I like it.
“peace” – house on the beach baggy cardigan in a sandy hue
This song feels very mature – accepting the realities of a relationship, knowing you’re in it for life – and my definition of adult woman maturity is of course the show Big Little Lies, therefore I see the type of cardigan Nicole Kidman would wear on that, probably while drinking from a large glass of red wine.
“hoax” – zip up cardigan
This is actually one of my least favourite songs on the record, sadly, so I’ve chosen a type of cardigan I also do not like, as I find the style unflattering.