Is sleepy folk Taylor better than upbeat pop Taylor?
Swift has never sounded this grown up. The old Taylor would never write a song called ‘the last great american dynasty’ nor would she ever sing: ‘would you go tell me to fuck myself?’. In fact, listening to these wistful and melancholy tunes, I get the sense that the pop superstar has been listening to a lot of Lana Del Rey (although the ‘fuck’ count on Lana albums is still much higher). The most surprising thing about it is that she pulls it off. Songs like ‘Cardigan’ are genuinely well-written and emotive.
It’s a shame that the instrumentation is so remarkably dull. Granted, folk albums generally don’t have the most exciting sonic backdrops, but they’re usually not this dismal and colourless. Aaron Dessner of The National helped produce this album and is the one to blame – there are needless muffled digital drums and hollow strings added to the mix, when a single guitar or piano could have done the job. Instead of using opting for an earthy lo-fi sound, everything is coated in a sterile studio sheen that takes away the intimacy from Taylor’s voice. Taylor’s previous albums may lacked lyrical substance, but at least the production wasn’t lifeless.