It’s late, the radiance of the fairy light catches on the tinsel of the Christmas tree in the corner of the room, headphones on, the cat sleeping soundly on the edge of the sofa, and I cried my way through most of this record; I cried for all the things I never said, and all the things I would never let myself say again.
I don’t know if any of us predicated a second act to folklore, and yet here we are, the warmth of summer a dim memory, and evermore is filled with all the wonder of the present season, a continuation of the words and feelings outlined in the first record, a question answered as to how time might change those first songs now they are out in the world; it is a conversation that the artist is having with herself, and in that it is the same conversation that I am having this night, when I think of all those old ghosts that this record evokes; the conversation that we’ve all been having this year as we’ve been gifted far, far too much time alone to evaluate our own mistakes.. ‘There’s an ache in you, put there by the ache in me,’ comes through the line on ‘tis the damn season, and I haven’t felt as sorry as I feel now in a long time, and I never knew that this feeling could find its way into such a concise sentence.
Opening with willow, its video a thematic answer to the opening of the previous record, all fairy stories and Stella McCartney dresses, I started crying from somewhere around the first chorus, and didn’t really stop until the very end of the album’s conclusion, evermore. If you’re reading this at any point that is not this year, then maybe this won’t make sense to you, maybe it will seem nonsensical to differentiate between folklore and evermore, so interwoven are they; in so many places this record feels like the answer to the call of that which has gone before, ‘My mind turns your life into folklore,’ she calls out on gold rush, ‘I can’t dare to dream about you anymore.’ If the first 16 songs carried with them that sense of forlornness so often found on records by the National, then these further 15 songs carry that onto a natural conclusion in a way that is both complementary and continuous. So much of what makes Matt Berninger’s narratives work so well is his implicit understanding of men, of the loneliness of men, his sense of the male narrative second only, in this girl’s opinion, to Murakami. It seems only natural to hear him amongst his bandmates here on evermore, singing back to Swift on Coney Island with all the sobered melancholy of what makes their records resonate so very strongly.
So much of the record wrestles with mistakes, with living with the weight of failure, so much of it is about being a woman, about admitting your mistakes, about answering that voice that tells you on nights light this, when the radiance of the fairy lights catches the tinsel, that you have fucked up, and you can’t go back, and you shouldn’t forgive, and you shouldn’t forget; never more is this felt more keenly than on tolerate it – ‘Took this dagger in me and removed it. Gain the weight of you then lose it.’
There are very few moments in which evermore falters, possibly on no body, no crime, a collaboration with HAIM, which is not a bad song per se – far be it for me to say anything against HAIM – but does not necessarily feel as if it fits the tone of the album, certainly not during the first half of the record, being so charged with sorrow as it is. If anything, the song sounds like JENNY LEWIS AND THE WATSON TWINS, which is really no criticism at all. Perhaps it is the broader focus of the song, the less personal tone; it should be noted, however, for its playfulness, for its way of playing with fiction whilst each participant plays a version of themselves, but it is not necessarily well placed.
As the record progresses, it feels like the first half is maybe slightly fuller than some of the later tracks; dorothea feels very close in spirit to betty from the first record, and it feels like it found its place here because of the response the first song garnered, and how people fell in love to it. It is also one of the moments in which Swift reminds the audience that her first love was not the brash, streamlined pop that struck a chord with so many people, but the more personal narratives of country music, and this love of that gentler, quieter, more lilting refrain again resurfaces upon the suitably titled cowboy like me.
In dissent, I had previously raised my voice against the inclusion of BON IVER first time around, yet here with the concluding track, the sentiment, the words, and the conversation between Swift and Justin Vernon on the album’s final song is heartfelt and honest, the song that exile should have been, had the former not been so primed as single material. Despite me, the song goes beyond all expectations, and is one of the most beautiful moments on an album already so full of beautiful moments.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you want to call this, and it doesn’t matter what I say, or what I feel, because at the end of the day, what evermore represents is 15 personal songs about loss, and regret, and forgiveness, the last of which we could all do with embracing as we reach the end of this long, long year.
Illustration by Jericho Vilar