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Taylor Swift’s Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions

I started this blog on September 14th, 2020, and when I first launched it, I included a Pick of the Month feature. I have not updated my initial selection for subsequent months, deliberately, because there hasn’t been anything else that has gripped me as much as Taylor Swift’s 8th album Folklore.

In September, I wrote, “It’s been years an album has captured my attention as intensely as Taylor Swift’s Folklore. Songs like “mirrorball,” “seven,” “invisible strings,” and “mad woman” can take me from slow dancing with my daughters to lost in thought, flush with ideas and possibilities. I admire Swift’s growth as an artist, that her music can transcend the limitations of genre and speak to an essence of longing, hunger, and raw fragility that gently hums within my soul.”

Today is December 1st, and no other album, book, movie, or anything has captured me the way this album continues to do so.

On Disney Plus, Taylor Swift released Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, a documentary/in-studio concert of all 16 songs from her album plus a bonus track. This documentary did not just play the songs, which they did beautifully. Literally next to a fire, clearly separated by a distance greater than six feet, Swift and collaborators Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, sipped their wine and discussed the creative process that allowed Folklore come to be. Having a better understanding of their process gives me a deeper appreciation for the album.

As such, Folklore is my pick for 2020.

The documentary illuminates numerous points about the songs’ meanings and creative process. For one, I find it incredibly impressive that this album was created virtually. It was not until The Long and Pond Studio Sessions that all three musicians played these songs together in-person. Up until now, each artist contributed their portions of the song, whether vocals or instrumental, and it was spliced together. I am no musician, but I imagine to build a song with different instrumental pieces and components through this virtual process was no easy feat. This also suggests that this virtual process of creation can work regardless of the product, provided contributors are equally invested.

Up to now, Swift’s work has been mostly autobiographical. With a few exceptions, much of Folklore is not about Swift personally. It is historical (“the last great american dynasty” and “epiphany”). It is a fictional love triangle between Betty, James, and an unnamed female character, whose name could be a variation of August like Augustine or Augusta (“cardigan,” “betty,” and “august”). It is a commentary about the pandemic and its impact on American society (“mirrorball” and “epiphany”). And yes, though Swift’s autobiography is not at the forefront, she does include her own story (“the 1,” “mirrorball,” “this is me trying,” “mad woman,” and “hoax”). What I love is that each song layers meaning, both literally and figuratively. Many of the songs allude to one another, continuing a thought or rewriting a story from a different time or perspective while being relatable in various contexts. For example, the female rage that permeates “mad woman” is so unbelievably relatable. Women in particular are not encouraged in society to display or embrace their anger, even when the situation justifies that emotion. All of the songs coalesce into the unified theme espoused by the title: Folklore. “The lines between fantasy and reality blur and the boundaries between truth and fiction become almost indiscernible,” Swift said. Folklore are stories told and retold. From a thematic and literary lens, I believe this album accomplishes this intention on numerous levels.

Musically, the instrumentals are simple, featuring guitar and piano accompaniments to Swift’s vocals. Most songs have a repetitive bridge (or is it a rift? Forgive me if I use the wrong music terms). The tunes are harmonic and become almost hypnotic.

Maggie especially loves this album, too. She could have had yet another seizure, and if I play this album while she recovers, I notice her smiling. She slowly sways her head to the beat. I can hear her hum. For reasons I don’t truly understand, this album speaks to my nonverbal LGS Warrior on a deep soul connection. I have not seen her soothed to this degree by any other complete album. When I listen to “seven,” a song about the innocence of childhood, I hear the chorus in my mind as I watch my children throw tantrums. “Please picture me in the weeds before I learned civility. I used to scream ferociously any time I wanted.” Little children are naturally feral and these lines help me smile at the face of irrational screaming.

Folklore can be streamed on Spotify and the Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions is currently featured on Disney Plus. If you haven’t heard this album yet, give it a go. Perhaps you’ll feel as moved by it as I do.


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