he artist dropped her wonderfully stripped-back, bright yet smoldering eighth album Folklore at midnight on Friday (July 24), featuring a treasure trove of indie-folk flourishes courtesy of The National’s Aaron Dessner, who co-wrote most of the album with Swift; his brother, Bryce, who handled some orchestration; and a slew of other notable collaborators, including Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and trusted pal Jack Antonoff.
But none of it would work if it wasn’t for Swift herself, who’s written some of the most affecting, drivingly narrative, and endearing songs of her catalog for Folklore, an album she ostensibly wrote and recorded in quarantine. That searing, crackling personality comes through in the lovely “Cardigan,” a exploration of feeling new with someone despite what may come after the newness wears off.
That whimsy is on full display in the accompanying video, one that puts Swift front and center in an autumnal tale centered around a transportive piano.
Directed by Swift herself in quarantine (who also styled herself and did her own hair and makeup), the visual pulsates with the wooded, fantastical implications of Folklore‘s title, especially as she evokes both Peter Pan and Wendy in the lyrics. “And when I felt like I was an old cardigan / Under someone’s bed / You put me on and said I was your favorite,” she sings on the refrain, weathering both a bitter storm at sea and a tranquil, waterfall-laden scene amid vast greenery.
“In my isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result,” she wrote in a note accompanying the album release, “a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness.”
You can see it all in the “Cardigan” video, which, as a slide at the end of it explains, was made in conjunction with on-set medics and COVID-19 compliance personnel to ensure the crew “[operated] under the strictest guidelines including wearing PPE, practicing thorough sanitization, and respecting social distancing during the video shoot.”
It’s that same energy that Dessner told Zane Lowe drove the creation of the album itself: “When [Swift] had an idea, it was kind of magic and came very quickly.” The result, perhaps unsurprisingly, looks both intimate and stunningly complex, a vision dreamed up by Swift in isolation and executed with a stirring, dazzling attention to detail.
Check it out above.