The Magic of Taylor Swift’s “folklore”

“folklore” by Taylor Swift

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 2 years since we followed the golden string into the folklorian woods created by Taylor Swift and had our lives forever changed. Like Narnia and Wonderland before it, the world crafted gorgeously by Taylor passed down stories of loves lost, introspection and hopes of what’s to come. It’s been a magical 2 years and the stories told here still hold the same weight- and that’s why I’d like to deep dive this phenomenal album’s best lyrics and production choices.

Swift’s collaboration with Jack Antonoff and The National’s Aaron Dessner all came about amidst the start of Covid, with every song being written, produced and recorded within the span of a few months. The low stakes process of making the album is perhaps what made it feel so special- lacking any pressure of her record label or expectations of charting. This was music made for the sake of writing- at times painful, cathartic, and exactly what was needed to survive in that insane moment.

The album’s first track “the 1” perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come on the record, describing a love that got away with a production that automatically felt like a change of pace for the singer who had previously released her pop centric album Lover less than a year before this. “And if my wishes came true, it would’ve been you,” the speaker thinks to herself on the chorus of a love that is no longer in her life. It’s heartbreakingly relatable, trying to seem as if she’s moved on and yet still thinking of them to the point of believing she sees them in the places she goes. The line that still haunts me with every listen comes in the bridge when she ponders to herself that “I persist and resist the temptation to ask you, if one thing had been different, would everything be different today?

“the 1” by Taylor Swift

The album’s lead single “cardigan” is a standout among Taylor’s tremendous career, perhaps one of the best songs she has ever written. The first song in the “teenage love triangle” trilogy featured on folklore, “cardigan” is from the perspective of the character Betty looking back on her past with her partner James who put her through a lot when they were younger. “But I knew you’d linger like a tattoo kiss, I knew you’d haunt all of my what ifs, the smell of smoke would hang around this long, cause I knew everything when I was young. I knew I’d curse you for the longest time, chasing shadows in the grocery line, I knew you’d miss me once the thrill expired, and you’d be standing in my front porch light, and I knew you’d come back to me,” she sings on the third verse. Everything from the lyrics to the instrumentation and the way Swift sings the track is absolute perfection and Dessner’s production is some of the finest I’ve heard in recent memory.

“cardigan” by Taylor Swift

“my tears ricochet” is one of only a few songs on the album that have a personal stake in its story rather than the fictional tales Taylor had written with the other tracks. Her vocal delivery has an edge to it here, a clear-cut message for the man who many believe to have inspired the track- Scott Borchetta who sold Swift’s masters without her permission to Scooter Braun. Like all of the best songs on this record, it’s not merely about one thing- with Taylor’s skillful writing making it connect to her own life while leaving it broad enough for its listeners to find relatable as well. “And I can go anywhere I want, anywhere I want, just not home. And you can aim for my heart, go for blood, but you would still miss me in your bones. And I still talk to you when I’m screaming at the sky, and when you can’t sleep at night- you hear my stolen lullabies,” the swell of the production continues to build through the bridge before reaching its peak in the final chorus. There’s a rage beneath the song’s seams that only a true betrayal can trigger and it’s that emotion that leaves me in its wake every single time I listen to it.

“my tears ricochet” by Taylor Swift

One of my all-time favorite Taylor songs and my personal favorite from this record has to be “august”, which is the second part of the “teenage love triangle” trilogy- this time told from the perspective of a girl named Augustine who James spent a summer with instead of with Betty. If Augustine had been written by the wrong hands, she could have been merely made into a trope of the “other woman”, but with Swift as her writer, she is instead fleshed out and understood. It’s made clear that she thought this love was real and not just a summer love, which makes the listener empathize with her even more so when James goes back to Betty in the end. Here, the production is light and summery to match the summer love that James and Augustine shared and instantly feels classic. “But I can see us lost in the memory, August slipped away into a moment in time, cause it was never mine. And I can see us twisted in bedsheets, August sipped away like a bottle of wine, cause you were never mine,” she continues to break our hearts with that chorus.

“august” by Taylor Swift

If we’re talking about songs that stay with you long after the first listen, we need to mention “this is me trying” which really showcases Taylor’s ability to capture other perspectives by telling stories of a person struggling with mental illness and another struggling with addiction. This song is her way of giving credit to those who don’t always have their daily struggles acknowledged by those around them. “They told me all of my cages were mental, so I got wasted like all my potential, and my words shoot to kill when I’m mad, I have a lot of regrets about that. I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere, fell behind all my classmates and I ended up here, pouring out my heart to a stranger but I didn’t pour the whiskey,” the second verse really hits when you feel like where you are in life doesn’t quite reach the potential you faced at a younger age- especially now that less people pat you on the back when you reach adulthood. The song itself explores how sometimes the act of trying is something only you know when the ones around you don’t know your personal struggle- and it’s truly something that has resonated quite poignantly with her listeners.

“this is me trying” by Taylor Swift

The final song in the “teenage love triangle” trilogy is “betty” which is told from James’ perspective as he shows up at Betty’s party to apologize and try to win her back after his affair with Augustine. It’s the quintessential, end of a romantic comedy ending that we all hope for as the man comes to his senses and owns up to his mistakes. Here though, it’s tinged with a bittersweet sadness as we consider how Augustine is left in the dust as James and Betty rekindle their love. “Betty, I’m here on your doorstep, and I planned it out for weeks now, but it’s finally sinking in. Betty, right now is the last time I can dream about what happens when you see my face again,” James is filled with that beautiful anxiety as he plans on the possibilities of what will happen when he shows up at the party. This song always brings me back to those moments in my life, those moments before you see the person you love after a long time and that hopefulness you feel that seeing you will mean as much to them as it does to you.

“betty” by Taylor Swift

The haunting production on “peace”, mixed with the anxiety-tinged lyrics create a gorgeous balance that has continued to make this song grow on me with each listen. This is Taylor at her most personal and raw on this record, singing directly to her longtime boyfriend Joe Alwyn. She recognizes that although she tries to make her life as normal as possible for everyone around her, there’s always this dark cloud lingering over them. She can’t control what tabloids will say about them or if there’s a strange man with a camera nearby wherever they go, but she hopes that what she can control is enough for him even if she can’t give him peace. It’s very much the price of fame which has been written about time and time again over the years but never to this degree of intimacy. “And you know I’d swing with you for the fences, sit with you in the trenches, give you my wild, give you a child. Give you the silence that only comes when two people understand each other, family that I chose now that I see your brother as my brother. Is it enough?”

“peace” by Taylor Swift

The album’s closing track “the lakes” continues this sentiment of finding a sense of peace in life, this time exploring the idea of someday being able to escape from the spotlight and moving somewhere like the great poets did, where they were free to just write for themselves. Inspired by a trip to the lake district in England with Alwyn, she recognized a part of herself in those writers and while she can’t run away there at this very moment, his love gives her that same sense of freedom and happiness in this time. “Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die, I don’t belong and my beloved, neither do you. Those Windermere peaks look like a perfect place to cry, I’m setting off, but not without my muse, not without you,” she closes out the album on that final sentiment.

“the lakes” by Taylor Swift

Taylor is at peace with her life, after all of the turmoil and betrayal she’s faced. She’s now surrounded herself with people who only serve to bring light into her life and has found a love worth leaving it all behind for. And in doing so, she’s been able to expertly explore these gorgeous, fictitious stories that she began to craft here as well as in folklore‘s sister album evermore after it.

folklore is exquisitely crafted- still as fresh on its second anniversary as it was on the first listen with surprises still being found in the background of its production and songwriting choices that still leave me wondering how someone could be THAT good of a writer. The folklorian woods are a magical place- full of comfort and heartbreak and like most of you, I continue to find myself wandering back in all over again.

Thank you, Taylor.

Review: Sabrina Carpenter’s “emails i can’t send”

Sabrina Carpenter’s new album “emails i can’t send” is out everywhere now!

Sabrina Carpenter has masterfully crafted a deeply personal and heartbreakingly intimate, yet perfectly fun summer album with her latest album emails i can’t send. Her first full length release since 2019’s Singular: Act II, this album is her strongest and most cohesive by far- showcasing her witty songwriting and utilizing her vocals better than I’ve heard from previous projects.

As I’ve now listened to the album quite a few times through, I can’t help but feel like in a way, this is Sabrina’s equivalent to Taylor Swift’s masterful album Reputation. Following a year of media scrutiny and the publicization of her personal life, one can only imagine the kind of backlash she faced and instead of letting it tarnish her career- she owns it with confidence and takes the time to tell her side of the situation and does so quite beautifully.

The track that will most likely get the most social media buzz “because i liked a boy”, addresses the perceptions and harsh assumptions that Carpenter faced when the public decided to villainize her when dragged against her will into a very public love triangle. “Now I’m a homewrecker, I’m a slut. I got death threats filling up semitrucks, tell me who I am, guess I don’t have a choice, all because I liked a boy,” she sings on the chorus, owning into the perceptions people made about a relationship they frankly knew nothing about. Throughout the song, she compares the innocence of their relationship against the cruel and sometimes brutal noise surrounding them. It’s sad that in 2022, a situation can still be so sensationalized to the point that one woman has to be torn down in order to support another- and frankly the true villains are the ones who made Sabrina write this song in the first place.

Directed by Amber Park

The album’s title track and introduction “emails i can’t send” adds another layer to understanding what Sabrina has faced- detailing her own fathers’ infidelity and her inability to look at him the same. The stripped down, gorgeous piano led track is tragic in its lyrics while explaining how her father’s affair has impacted her own ability to trust in her relationships- which frankly makes the public calling her a “homewrecker” that much more heartbreaking. “When I’m forty-five, someone calls me their wife, and he fucks our lives in one selfish night, don’t think I’ll find forgiveness as fast as mom did, and God, I love you, but you’re such a dipshit,” she sings in a stream of consciousness like style. Describing the track on her Instagram, Carpenter says that this is “The song that inspired the record. Someone I looked up to let me down and it changed the way I love and receive love.”

“emails i can’t send” by Sabrina Carpenter

Another album standout is “Tornado Warnings”, a very tongue in cheek and fun track about making a habit of ignoring someone’s red flags and choosing to see the best in them. “I drive you home, you drive me crazy, but that’s not gonna stop me, I call you out, you call me ‘baby’, but that’s not gonna stop me,” she sings on the bridge of the back and forth she feels in their relationship. The extremely catchy chorus is also sure to be having everyone singing “I’m lying to my therapist” all summer long as well right from the first listen.

“Tornado Warnings” by Sabrina Carpenter

Despite covering some heavy topics, Sabrina also balances out the album with some fun as well with tracks like “Nonsense” and “Bet You Wanna” oozing confidence and sensuality. My personal favorite as of right now is “Already Over”, which finds the singer exploring a relationship where her and her partner struggle to break the routine of being lovers when trying to maintain a friendship. The production is a perfect blend of pop and surprisingly country with the kind of knee slapping chorus that leaves you wanting to chant it over and over. “Yeah I Say I’m done, but I’m still confused, how am I supposed to close the door when I still need the closure? And I change my mind, but it’s still on you, how am I supposed to leave you now that you’re already over,” she sings on the chorus of how closure simply isn’t enough when you’re stuck on the moments you once felt happy in. It’s the perfect blend of heartbreaking lyrics and fun pop production that fans are sure to love.

“Already Over” by Sabrina Carpenter

The final song I’d like to discuss in this review is the album’s final track “Decode” which finds Sabrina coming to terms with the fact that certain situations are out of her control- finding in the end that she can try her best to let them go without taking it on herself. “There’s a weight off my shoulders now that I don’t chase you, being myself did that emasculate you? Learning from you that I can walk away too,” her message here feels like a true culmination of the journey that began with the opening track. As the track begins to close and the gorgeous violins continue on, you can practically feel Sabrina’s sigh of relief. It feels like finding her own freedom and inner peace- ending the album on a powerful note.

“Decode” by Sabrina Carpenter

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Sabrina Carpenter has managed to quite efficiently escape the “ex-Disney Star” phase of her career- transitioning seamlessly and quicker than any of her peers before her. This is damn good music and shouldn’t be belittled to headline grabbing hot takes. Sabrina Carpenter has cemented herself as here to stay- a successful singer, songwriter, actress and more. If you can’t see that, you’re simply not paying attention.

There’s more to emails i can’t send then the relationship drama that surrounded it. It’s a story of trauma at a young age and the harmful ways our society still tries to tear women down. But it’s also a story of taking what they try to belittle you with and owning it instead of letting it hold any power over you. And for that, Sabrina Carpenter deserves all of your praise.

emails i can’t send is out now on all streaming platforms!

Scalding Hot: Ben Kessler’s “I Could Do This All Night”

Ben Kessler’s new single “I Could Do This All Night” is out everywhere now!

Stop what you’re doing! The first edition of Brew Music Friday’s new segment “Scalding Hot” is all about singer-songwriter Ben Kessler who is finally back with new music and it’s about to be your new obsession. Kessler describes “I Could Do This All Night” as a song about fighting with yourself- the constant feeling of being stuck in your own head. “I realized I wasn’t writing about being angry or disappointed – I was writing about the power and amusement of realizing your own strength,” he wrote in a post about the release. It’s gritty, relatable, and like all of Ben’s music- effortlessly fun.

Yeah I could do this all night, you throw a mean punch, but I know you can’t fight and I gave up tryna give a piece of my mind, I’ll let you be right, run all the circles you’d like, I could do this all night,” he sings on the chorus of the rock influenced track. Ben’s voice has never sounded better- both gritty and vulnerable here and filled with stylistic choices that keep you gripping on every single word he sings.

In a short period of time, Ben Kessler has established himself as a poignant lyricist and producer who has stayed true to himself through every subsequent release and collaboration. Whether he’s singing with Lizzy McAlpine on “reckless driving” or on “Love You Now, Love You Later” from his 2021 EP Cruise Control, he makes you feel every emotion imaginable. His voice has the kind of gravel that most artists merely dream of possessing- at times reminiscent of John Mayer, but like most of the greats, he’s in a world all his own.

Ben has described “ICDTAN” as the first song from the most important batch of music he’s ever created, and if this is a tease of what he’s been up to in the months since the release of his single “April”, this next project cannot come soon enough. This is game changing music, anthemic and ready to be sung on every late-night drive with the windows down and sure to be screamed at the top of your lungs when he finally announces a tour.

If you’re looking to follow a rising artist before he hits the big leagues, Ben Kessler is your guy. Sincere, down to earth, and out of this world talented- he’s the kind of artist who deserves every single bit of attention you have to offer. And he’s sure to be an absolute superstar. You can follow his socials below to stay up to date with all of his upcoming news on releases and tour dates. Cheers and happy listening!

“I Could Do This All Night” is out now on all streaming platforms!

Are there any other artists you’d like to see featured on the next “Scalding Hot”? Send me your recommendations on Instagram today!

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Fresh Brewed Playlist # 13

Zach Oliver’s new single “Coat Check” is out now!

Zach Oliver’s newest release “Coat Check” is the perfect vibe to get this summer going with a chorus so catchy, I dare you to not have it stuck in your head instantly. I first heard the song teased on TikTok back in June and found myself instantly gravitating toward Zach’s sound, vibe, and overall personality he’d perfectly portrayed in the preview. It left me begging for more- and to my surprise the full song doesn’t disappoint at all (unlike many songs on the app that are teased for way too long before ultimately being underwhelming by the time they are released in full). Each chorus continues to build quite beautifully, and the background harmonies bring such a breath of life into each subsequent chorus. “I fell in love at the coat check singing the song of the summer and I know she got in without paying cover cause her one friend’s probably banging the drummer,” the tongue in cheek chorus is ready to be screamed at the top of your lungs on all of the night drives to come. Make sure you give him a follow now because this guy is sure to be a superstar.

“Coat Check” by Zach Oliver

“Gemini”, the latest release from Brynn Cartelli is by far the singer’s strongest outing yet since winning The Voice back in 2018 with Kelly Clarkson! Cartelli was the youngest contestant to ever win the competition and in the years since signing her recording contract, she’s shown a clear-cut artistry and talent for songwriting that all truly shine on this new single. “Gemini” is a fun play on astrology and the fact that Brynn knows that Gemini’s, often known for their double sides (as a fellow Gemini, I can definitely report that it’s real), aren’t good for her and yet the guy at the center of her song is still making her fall for him. The melody is instantly gorgeous and recognizable- unlike any song of recent memory- and the production purposefully allows her vocals to shine above the rising tension. The accompanying music video which Brynn directed herself features the most perfectly fitting choreography I’ve seen in quite a while (kudos to choreographer Olivia Picard). If this is a sign of what’s to come in Brynn Cartelli’s career, we absolutely have a lot to look forward to! Now listen to her advice and avoid my fellow Gemini’s at all costs!

“Gemini” by Brynn Cartelli

When I tell you that I cannot get enough of Manana’s new song “Pulchritudinous”, it’s just about the biggest understatement of the year. This song stopped me in my tracks, slapped me in the face and left me in its wake to sit and ponder over everything I know about life. It’s haunting, beautifully sung and produced, and just instantly memorable. The South African singer serves as songwriter and producer on the track, which is named after the word pulchritudinous, which also means physically beautiful or attractive. “See I’ve run out of words for what you deserve to be called,” he sings on the pre-chorus, forced to discover an adjective worthy enough to describe his partner. Whereas he searches for the words worthy of his partner, he finds them in the simplest of ways, telling them in the chorus “Cos you are where I’m so happy“. It’s that sentiment that makes it so gorgeous, finding the words that we all dream of hearing someday. Between the songwriting, his velvety tone, and the exquisite production, I hope you all fall in love with this song as much as I have. Manana’s new EP But could the moments in between is out everywhere now!

“Pulchritudinous” by Manana

Check out the rest of the songs featured on Fresh Brewed #13 below!

Give me a follow on my socials and let’s chat about the music you’re loving right now!

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Review: Conan Gray’s “Superache”

Conan Gray’s new album “Superache” is out now!

Conan Gray’s long awaited sophomore studio album Superache is finally here, and it’s a massive leap in the right direction. The 23-year-old singer who started out on YouTube has shown an incredible bit of growth with this project- maturing as a songwriter and showing a vast improvement in his vocal ability as well. While I’ve always had respect for Gray and his pen, the production on previous projects sometimes left me wanting more and this album finally feels like his lyrics are met with their harmonious equals. Now let’s break it down!

Superache is a tale of love and heartbreak- telling stories of unrequited love, childhood trauma, and the impact they can have on one’s life. It’s heartbreaking and dramatic as hell, leaving you in its wake as Conan opens up about the experiences that have nearly broken him.

On opening track “Movies” he fantasizes about the kinds of love seen on screen, wishing him and his partner could have an unbreakable bond instead of feeling merely what they lack. No relationship is ever perfect, and yet we all search for that idealized love we grow up watching in films. Perhaps it’s a bit unrealistic but it teaches you what you truly deserve- which Conan recognizes when comparing his relationship to the ones he’s grown up watching. “In my head, we never grow apart, in my head, you never break my heart, but we know that’s not what we’re doing, ’cause baby, this ain’t like the movies,” he sings on the chorus and sets the tone for what’s to come with the rest of the album.

Movies” by Conan Gray

Another album standout is the newest single “Disaster” which is one of the very few up-tempo tracks on this project. The track represents the panic that ensues when contemplating over what will happen if you confess your feelings for someone. Conan captures the spiraling panic perfectly with collaborator Julia Michaels as well, imagining the worst-case scenario if he confesses his love for his crush. “There’s so many factors, like what if you freak out, and then we’re losin’ it all at the critical chapter, where I say ‘I love you’ and you don’t say it after? This could be a disaster,” he sings on the chorus of the all too relatable track. It’s a moment we’ve all found ourselves in at one point or another and despite the frustration this describes, the production is bouncy and pure pop perfection.

“Disaster” by Conan Gray

“Family Line” is by far, the album’s most personal and heartbreaking track- detailing Gray’s childhood and relationship between his parents. Conan describes the feeling of growing up within this trauma and how it has molded him into who he is today, recognizing the parts of his parents that he sees within himself and how he has tried to unlearn the toxic patterns. “All of my past, I tried to erase it, but now I see, would I even change it? Might share a face and share a last name but we are not the same,” the bridge brings to light a sense of catharsis within Conan. It’s poignant and the production is absolute perfection- I dare anyone to listen to it without getting full body chills.

“Family Line” by Conan Gray

It would be impossible to review this album and not talk about “Astronomy” which came out over a year ago and still feels just as fresh as the first listen. To put it simply, it’s one of those songs that haunts you to your core and leaves you coming back for more pain every single time. The production builds so beautifully by the time it reaches the bridge as Conan sings about the fear of losing his friendship with his best friend and not having this bond someday. “You can’t force the stars to align when they’ve already died,” he recognizes how it would be perfect if all of the conditions would be ideal to revive their relationship but it’s not something they have any control over when there’s nothing keeping them together.

“Astronomy” by Conan Gray

Much of the beauty and pain of Superache relies on the fact that nothing lasts forever- whether it’s the love between 2 people, the ache from a relationship ending, or the trauma taught to us at a young age. There’s a poignant beauty to every feeling and experience, an opportunity to learn and grow from it all. And while life can hurt you and bring you to your lowest point, it’s that ache that reminds you you’re alive.

Superache is out now on all streaming platforms!