Filled with detailed lyrics that prompt a chuckle (“I come on stronger than a ’90s trend,” she says in the opening “Willow”) and twist the knife (“I take your indiscretions in good fun… now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life,” she sings with an underlying sneer in “Tolerate It”), Swift is clear-eyed throughout.
Her melodies, while often sharing a similar thread, cushion songs such as “Champagne Problems,” its seesawing piano chords owing a nod to The Beatles’ “Let it Be” (and, much like on “Folklore,” contains a well-placed expletive) and the swelling, soaring “Gold Rush.”
The women of Haim join her for “No Body No Crime,” which offers harmonica, a country lilt and a sumptuous chorus buoyed by the collective harmonies.
A focal point for Swifties will be “Happiness,” which finds the singer at her most pensive. “I haven’t met the real me yet,” she sings in a husky voice as she grapples with the realization of love lost when the winning smile turned to a smirk. “I can’t see facts through all of my fury,” she admits.
While “Gold Rush” presents the closest sound to her commercial fare and “Long Story Short” detours with skittering electronic beats driving it, the root of “Evermore” is encapsulated by the title track, a stark piano-and-strings ballad featuring Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, her buddy from “Folklore” (he also appears elsewhere on the album).
It’s an introspective closer, but the light sounds of birds chirping in the background indicate that Swift’s purpose is to force listeners to seek out the sun amid the gloom.
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