2020 works hard but Taylor Swift works harder. On Thursday, Swift announced a surprise new album which will drop at midnight, and the guest list is something to behold. The new album is called Folklore, which Swift called a “brand new album of songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears and musings into.” Maybe the biggest stunner is that 11 of the 16 songs were co-written or -produced by her fellow once-in-a-generation songwriting luminary The National’s Aaron Dessner.
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Most of the things I had planned this summer didn’t end up happening, but there is something I hadn’t planned on that DID happen. And that thing is my 8th studio album, folklore. Surprise 🤗Tonight at midnight I’ll be releasing my entire brand new album of songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into. I wrote and recorded this music in isolation but got to collaborate with some musical heroes of mine; @aarondessner (who has co-written or produced 11 of the 16 songs), @boniver (who co-wrote and was kind enough to sing on one with me), William Bowery (who co-wrote two with me) and @jackantonoff (who is basically musical family at this point). Engineered by Laura Sisk and Jon Low, mixed by Serban Ghenea & Jon Low. The album photos were shot by the amazing @bethgarrabrant. Before this year I probably would’ve overthought when to release this music at the ‘perfect’ time, but the times we’re living in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed. My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world. That’s the side of uncertainty I can get on board with. Love you guys so much ♥️
But that’s not all. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon will make an appearance as well, as will Swift’s frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff, who is on pretty much everything these days (Swift says Antonoff is ” basically musical family at this point.”) Swift’s a formidable talent on her own, but this is an enviable crew.
Dessner shared his thoughts on the experience, sounding genuinely enthused about his work with Swift and the finished product. “I’ve rarely been so inspired by someone and it’s still hard to believe this even happened — these songs came together in such a challenging time,” Dessner wrote on Instagram. “She is one of the most talented, hardworking and deeply caring artists I’ve ever encountered. There’s a palpable humanity and warmth and raw emotion in these songs that I hope you’ll love and take comfort in as much as I do.”
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I was excited and honored when Taylor approached me in late April about maybe writing some songs remotely together. I had been isolating with my family but writing a ton of music in the first months of quarantine which I shared. I thought it would take a while for song ideas to come and I had no expectations as far as what we could accomplish remotely. But a few hours after sharing music, my phone lit up with a voice memo from Taylor of a fully written version of a song — the momentum never really stopped. Over the next few months, we remotely finished 11 songs (She also recorded several others with the amazing @jackantonoff) of her magical new album “folklore”. I've rarely been so inspired by someone and it’s still hard to believe this even happened — these songs came together in such a challenging time. It wouldn't haven't been possible without so much help from first and foremost my engineer Jon Low (@heyjonlow). And my brother @brycedessner's beautiful orchestration on several songs from across the ocean. Justin (@blobtower) helped to write and sing a beautiful song and so many other friends from our community contributed brilliantly from their respective isolation — Ben Lanz (@lanzprojects), Bryan Devendorf (@postmoderndrummer), Bryce Dessner, @claricejensen, Dave Nelson (@dnelnelson), James McAlister (@900x), @jasontreuting, Josh Kaufman (@kaufyismynamo), JT Bates (@floortomjtbates), Kyle Resnick (@kresnick), Rob Moose (@mooserob), Thomas Bartlett (@tingalayo), and Yuki Numata Resnick (@kiyukiyukiyuki) — More on them later! I'm very proud of all these songs and profoundly grateful to @taylorswift for inviting me into and trusting me in her process. She is one of the most talented, hardworking and deeply caring artists I've ever encountered. There's a palpable humanity and warmth and raw emotion in these songs that I hope you'll love and take comfort in as much as I do. Album art by @bethgarrabrant.
And there will, of course, be a new music video too. Swift wrote and directed the video for her new song “cardigan” herself (along with doing her own hair, makeup and styling, along with bringing a medical inspector to oversee the shoot and keep everyone socially distanced.) Swift says “cardigan” will premier on Thursday night.
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The music video for “cardigan” will premiere tonight, which I wrote/directed. A million thank you’s to my brilliant, bad ass video team – cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, producer Jil Hardin, executive producer Rebecca Skinner, AD Joe ‘Oz’ Osbourne, editor Chancler Haynes, special effects wizards David Lebensfeld & Grant Miller, and set designer Ethan Tobman. The entire shoot was overseen by a medical inspector, everyone wore masks, stayed away from each other, and I even did my own hair, makeup, and styling 😂
There are lots more details on Swift’s website, where you can order special, deluxe editions of Folklore along with a few other goodies. In any case, this marks a pretty major shift from Swift, whose album cycles are usually met with the pomp and circumstance of a presidential campaign. This quiet, Joni Mitchell-type release is another new pivot from a rare mix: a global pop star who refuses to get lazy or coast on her own talent.