On July 24, Taylor Swift rocked the musical world when she dropped her surprise eighth studio album, Folklore, capturing the hearts of Swifties, new listeners and critics. Though released in the heat of summer, the album is perfect for this upcoming fall, given its atmosphere of nostalgia, love and comfort. Unlike past albums — such as 1989 or Lover — in which the majority of tracks are upbeat, radio-friendly and scream summer, Folklore is the perfect album for scenic drives, crying in your room, or even as background noise while studying or cleaning. Admittedly, I've done all of these.
I can't count how many times I've listened to Folklore anymore, but I do know one thing: this album screams fall. While I associate summer with fun, winter with dreariness (or holidays) and spring with new beginnings, I associate fall with school, yearning and comfort. Listeners get all three themes throughout the album.
If you're a fan of Taylor Swift, you know she loves to go back to high school settings for her songs, whether in lyricism or music videos. Think "Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince" from her seventh studio album, Lover; her iconic music video for "You Belong With Me," from her second studio album, Fearless; and way back to "Teardrops on My Guitar" from her 2006 debut album. Swift continues the trend in Folklore with a triptych of songs following a teenage love triangle from the three perspectives: "cardigan," "betty" and "august." Though I won't get into how these three are connected — more on that here — we know that these three characters — Betty, James and Inez — are in high school, with Swift singing, "Betty I won't make assumptions about why you switched your homeroom but, I think it's 'cause of me," in the fourteenth track of the album. Leave it to Taylor Swift to create a multi-perspective narrative in three songs, capturing the thrills of summer love, regrets as summer comes to a close and the yearning we experience as fall rolls in.
Other tracks also follow this theme of yearning and wishing to start over. By fall, we all feel the year coming to an end and begin to make plans for the next. As summer fades away, we look to our future and muse about our past. Swift does the same in this record. In the opening track "the 1," she asks, "If one thing had been different/ would everything be different today?" Her lyrics also include a line that it would "have been fun" if said ex was "the one." While other tracks include this rose-colored nostalgia — namely "the last great american dynasty" and "seven" — others have a twinge (or a handful) of bitterness or regret. Summer fun fades and resentment builds in "illicit affairs," "my tears ricochet," "mad woman" and "exile."
Since this is a Taylor Swift album, though, we do need some love songs to balance out the more somber tracks. Both "invisible string" and "peace" are utterly romantic, if for two different reasons. In "invisible string," Swift tracks her relationship with long-term partner Joe Alwyn, musing that "all this time there was some invisible string tying you to me" only to then question whether her love "is enough" to keep her relationship strong due to her lack of privacy and "peace." Lyrics like "All these people think love's for show, but I would die for you in secret" emphasize that above all, Taylor Swift is a romantic, delivering a love story that feels more mature than any other she's written or sung about before.
The album is both peaceful and tumultuous. Its minimal production — a far cry from the "bass beat rattling the chandelier" of Reputation or the high-pitched "oohs" of Lover — gives the album a more naturalistic and grounded feel. With an astounding swath of maturity — hinted in previous tracks like "Daylight" and "New Years Day" — and a spot-on bittersweet tone, Folklore is a bonafide fall album. Can't you see yourself in a coffee shop listening to Folklore as you study? Or in a cozy sweater on a crisp fall hike? With fall just around the corner, give Folklore another listen. The album might just be your soundtrack for the next couple of months.