Swift’s ‘evermore’ amplifies the best of ‘folklore’

evermore, Taylor Swift

They say lightning never strikes in the same place twice. They also said that Taylor Swift’s career had likely met its peak during the 2017 release of reputation. Unsurprisingly, the singer-songwriter continues to prove skeptics wrong in disrupting the conversation surrounding her music and personal life. This deep into her career, Taylor Swift still subverts expectation.

Merely 5 months after her career capping masterpiece folklore immersed listeners in a world independent of the bleak reality that is 2020, the singer announced yet another surprise full length LP. The record, evermore, is a direct continuation of folklore. The first of Swift’s albums to be serialized, the release is the singer’s closest attempt to The Beatles’ White Album. Does it succeed? Astonishingly. evermore doubles down on the strengths of folklore, decidedly adding a contemporary edge not necessarily as overtly present on the preceding instant classic.

The storytelling that sewed together the tapestry of folklore continues on evermore. There are tales of Hollywood’s Dorothea (“’tis the damn season,” “dorothea”), aching glimpses into heartbreak at all stages of life (“happiness,” “tolerate it”) and joyous expressions of love (“willow,” “cowboy like me”). Ever-present on evermore is Swift’s now expected ability to instantly compel listeners. Each subsequent track feels novel and lived in simultaneously. What’s so impressive about the more uptempo folklore sibling is this immediately timeless sound.

Excluding perhaps on its predecessor, Swift has never sounded this authentically self assured. There’s a reason evermore is displayed in color. It’s brighter, more animated than the pensive, delicately delivered folklore. The autumnal album sees Swift lean more heavily into her past pop-rock influences.

Most notably applying this style is “long story short,” a quietly revelatory account of the last few years of the singer’s personal life. Fans of this poppy style seen many times over throughout Swift’s past work can also find pleasure in this and many of the tracks on evermore. “long story short” will likely become the latest TikTok trend seeing content creators throwing it back and twerking their way through the woodlands. Swift’s uninhibited vocals reflect back on her spirit that encompassed her seventh record, Lover. Sharper and more focused, the singer has mastered what she set out to in folklore, wiping off the tattooed media press informing her image and owning her narrative with a well veiled allegory.

Swift also takes the fictional storytelling of folklore to exciting new places with collaborators old and new. On “no body, no crime,” she uses her real life friendship with Este and the rest of the Haim sisters as an entry point for a crime thriller reminiscent of The Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl.” The country-folk banger showcases a playful Swift. Listeners will practically hear her smirks throughout the song’s vocal.

Other collaborations are just as fresh, with Swift uniting with the remainder of The National members on the quietly devastating “coney island.” A relative to folklore‘s “exile,” it successfully incorporates the band’s signature style to bring together a rich group dynamic. One of the album’s most pleasant surprises is the mystery collaborator on “cowboy like me,” a chess match turned authentic love affair. Now confirmed by Swift as the one and only Marcus Mumford, the two act as con artists fooling themselves into a relationship.

Individually, Swift continues to manifest what has given her the boundless platform she has today in “marjorie.” There’s perhaps no better track to encapsulate Swift’s mastery of songwriting. It’s here where Swift ruminates on her relationship with her grandmother and her later learnings of Marjorie’s life through familial inquiries. It’s a one-of-a-kind, universal observation of loss. The song details what it means to realize one’s naivety in approaching their relatives early in life. That epiphany cuts short what could’ve been a powerful relationship that informs that person’s life. At the song’s center is Swift’s staggering delivery of every last shred of her emotion.

Mirroring the more alt/indie sensibilities is deep cut “closure.” The song will almost definitely be overlooked by the majority of listeners, but it’s an endlessly interesting blend of the album’s overall sound and jarring electronica.

The album closes with the flawless “evermore.” Surpassing “exile” as the superior Swift/Vernon collaboration, the climactic finale once again pits two artists vocals against one another. Bon Iver swoops in to bring the tempo up before slowing it back down for Swift to deliver the final blows. It encapsulates the melancholic atmosphere Swift, Dessner & Antonoff have orchestrated in her music this year.

evermore is nothing short of epic. It elongates a magnum opus to provide the world with what many would consider a double album. It adds enough singularity, individual depth, and fresh sound to enrich the already scrupulous development of the world of folklore.

“The road not taken looks real good now,” Swift croons with a tongue in cheek grin on “’tis the damn season.” This knowing nod to her releasing evermore when not even her most devoted fans had anticipated it, Swift proves this.


Sam Smith finds liberation in convention

Love Goes, Capitol

“I wanna be wild and young, and not be afraid to lose,” Sam Smith coos in the opening line of their long reworked third studio album Love Goes. The dance pop record, originally titled To Die For, is essentially a breakup album explored through the theme of rebirth and re-acclamating with oneself.

Like Lorde’s Melodrama and Taylor Swift’s Red before it, the album finds enlightenment in heartbreak. The biggest issue with the project isn’t that its themes are familiar, it’s that Smith’s self actualization comes in the form of their weakest artistry to date. The bulk of the record feels so commonplace it only beckons listeners to reassemble with Smith’s past work. With each wave, it’s pulled in a new sonic direction, none of which stick the landing enough to dazzle.

Opening with “Youth,” Love Goes has a clear narrative of love lost. Smith’s heartbreak is well worn in the intro as they yearn for the next phase of their life. Before they find it, they succumb to memories with bitter hindsight on standout “Diamonds” and “Another One.” Their partner, shallow and quick to move on, has done a number on the pop crooner.

The remaining story of the album is Smith’s crawl back to themself, gluing their soul back together to new sounds. Similar to Lorde’s “Green Light,” they find solace on the dance floor and in the forms of new bodies and friends. If only this profound realization was reflected in a stronger, more unified production.

The majority of the songs on Love Goes play it extremely safe. On “So Serious,” Smith reflects on their lack of freedom, taking things overly personal. It’s set to a backdrop of snaps and claps that, if played at a low volume, may lay listeners to sleep. Instantly forgettable, the track lacks substance. Similar is the often whispered vocal of “Breaking Hearts.” Another song of losing love and the one sided aftermath Smith experiences, it too lacks conviction and singularity.

Perhaps most disappointing is the Labrinth assisted title track. In a year when Labrinth simply never misses (listen to the award winning Euphoria score immediately), the single is exactly that. What is meant to be the cathartic climax of a once in a lifetime love, it leaves listeners with little more than a shrug.

There are moments of sparkle within the album. One of the strongest moments comes in “Dance (‘Til You Love Someone Else).” The track is one of the few actually convincing moments of Smiths newly established sound. Applying the popular UK sound found in house pop like Calvin Harris’ “How Deep Is Your Love,” the song effectively supports its confident lyricism.

Unsurprisingly, Smith shines brightest when they slow down the party with the ballad “For The Lover That I Lost.” It’s a rare glimpse of the artist fans have come to love over the years. Their voice is truly once in a generation, and it couldn’t be more apparent than on this gem of a deep cut.

At 11 tracks, the standard edition of the album closes with “Kids Again.” A Troye Sivan esque track reveals a still hurt, but more matured Smith. Its another glimpse of the sound they were going for in constructing the project.

The biggest flaw of the record is its directionless structure. Where Taylor Swift’s Red lightsped through genres through the lens of the emotional process, Love Goes fails to justify its sonic incoherence. Some of the strongest statements lay in the deluxe tracks released across the last year and a half, namely “Dancing With a Stranger” and “To Die For.”

If nothing more, Love Goes shows an artist willing and committed to evolving. Whatever’s next, Smith has the potential to grow into whatever they want to become next.


Joji drops commercial ‘Nectar’

What happens when new media meets art?

In the 21st century, each decade has produced new avenues for talent of all kinds to achieve the success they likely would not have achieved without technological advancements. This can date back to the days of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Utilizing the newly minted “reality television” medium, the two socialites became the original “influencers,” ushering in an Instagram-driven age of the self brand and a type of self employment that required nothing but luxury and style.

Today, this now obsolete tactic has created an oversaturated market for influencers far and wide. In need of a new tactic, the public flocked to YouTube and TikTok. Both free form platforms for users to put out essentially anything they want, it has provided an outlet for stars like the D’Amelios and Addion Raes of the world.

On the YouTube side, artist Joji made a stark transition to music, utilizing his steady following on the platform to seamlessly segue into his new role of genuine artist. His single, “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK,” was a huge streaming hit. It allowed the singer to shed the skin of his former persona, leaving room for an easily marketable “sadboi” for the kids of Gen Z.

Clearly an ingenious tactic, the single resonated with users of this demographic. The song was appropriated into one of the first TikTok trends of its kind. Users utilized the song to film their own videos, expanding the already viral nature of the single.

With Nectar, Joji’s second studio album, the artist triples down on this tactic. The sweeping 18 track set features enough melancholy and hip hop influenced beats to dominate TikTok feeds for the fleeting days of the app’s reign.

It’s impossible to analyze Nectar from a purely artistic standpoint. The strategy is too on-the-nose. This, though, doesn’t necessarily discredit the quality of the often high quality record. Is it a few songs too long? Yes. Does it repeat themes to the point of monotony? Definitely. Is it, above all else, emotionally compelling and entertaining? Absolutely.

Nectar is made up mostly of love tunes across the spectrum of pursuit, loss, and the instability between those two benchmarks. The opener, “Ew,” immediately sets the tone of the project. Lamenting the loss of a love and wishing for one more longstanding and true, Joji sounds exasperated. This exhaustion only continues throughout most of the tracks.

The singer goes beyond the science of love to discuss the trappings of fame and the business side of his industry. Standout “MODUS” deals directly with labels and publicity teams forcing an image on him.

“I don’t feel the way they programmed me to feel today,” he sighs. The chorus of the song plays like an eboy version of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” and it’s actually one of the best moments on the album. It’s an interestingly self aware moment for a project seeped in its own commercialism and business oriented structure, actually including a song titled “Tick Tock.”

Another highlight is the Diplo assisted single “Daylight.” It’s a rare uptempo bop in a sea of mid tempo pieces of introspection.

Should Nectar have been abridged to about 12 songs, it would play as a much better album. Joji’s talent as both a songwriter and performer is undeniable since BALLADS 1. He’s shifted his sonics to inconsistent success. Though this work is a symptom of the maneuvers that got him to this point, the strength of the work often shines through the cracks.


Fall Favorites: Best New Music

If music is in the age of the independent artist, then 2020 is the renaissance of innovation. Forced isolation and physical entrapment has led to an escapism in creativity from a never before seen scope. This forced reality alteration has proven its profound impact on musicians. With more music coming out and new ways of releasing and promoting it, this is one of the few industries to find enrichment throughout this time (though we of course all miss our live shows).

This season, check out the below EPs from new and up-and-coming artists injecting their own DNA into the veins of the global music ecosystem.


I’m Allergic to Dogs! Remi Wolf

I’m Allergic to Dogs! – Remi Wolf

Remi Wolf is one of the most creative songwriters to breakout this year. “He likes his cherries when they’re Maraschino, he likes his movies when they’re Tarantino,” she asserts on standout track “Disco Man.” The set is incredibly fun and demands a few repeats with every listen. Funk, pop, and indie electronica provide a compelling backdrop from a lyricist unafraid to explore the facets of herself and share them with the world.

For fans of: Cautious Clay, Ryan Beatty, BROCKHAMPTON


Skofee, Signs From The Universe Entertainment

Polished – Skofee

The self-proclaimed “Beverly Hillbilly,” singer-songwriter Skofee impresses with a debut EP well beyond its years in maturity and artistic integrity. The 5-song set, released earlier this month, largely tells tales of loss, heartache, and self doubt. Amply titled, its juxtaposes the artist’s internal strife with a vocal performance so self-assured it beckons skepticism of how novel this artist really is. Indie pop has never been so emotionally affecting. Prepare to cry in the club (looking at you, “Bleach”).

For fans of: Tove Lo, Charli XCX, BANKS


Good Things, Atlantic

Good Things – Wafia

Wafia has been around for quite a while now. Her biggest hit remaining the Louis The Child collaboration “Better Not,” the multicultural alt-pop craftsman has yet to make her own mark on the pop sphere. That’s not to say the artist isn’t locked and loaded with some of the most powerful and introspective bangers. From “I’m Good” to this project’s “Flowers & Superpowers” and “Good Things,” Wafia balances vulnerability and confidence in a relatable way. This project has both, stitched together by a strong woman finding her way in life and love.

For fans of: Empress Of, King Princess, Lennon Stella


On Self Loathing, McCall

On Self Loathing – McCall

It’s endlessly impressive for any artist to be able to encapsulate internal anxiety and stress. A hidden battle, it often goes unnoticed by others. With her latest project, On Self Loathing, McCall powerfully achieves this. Both in sonics and lyricism, the artist is able to pinpoint the thought pathways that carry people through waves of depression. Beginning with “Nothing Even Wrong,” a dreamy, Bon Iver inspired opener, the artist volunteers her struggle to find the source problem for the feeling of hollow sadness. “I’m sorry I can’t come out, I really hate myself right now,” she secedes on the bouncy “Without Even Trying.” Endlessly honest, On Self Loathing forces listeners to think of the parts of themselves they shy away from, painting a relatable portrait for everyone.

For fans of: Bon Iver, The 1975, The Japanese House

Monét hunts for stardom on ‘JAGUAR’

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JAGUAR, Tribe Records

Powerful and mysterious, Victoria Monét embodies the jungle cat with charisma on the aptly titled JAGUAR. A small collection of 9 impressive tracks, the album is a slight showcase of Monét as she continues to grow into herself.

The R&B singer songwriter is no stranger to the industry. Backing one of the biggest albums of 2019 in thank u, next, its increasingly clear how deeply the artist influenced the latest sound of Ariana Grande – one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. Her name is credited on nearly every song on the record, pointing to her ability to encapsulate the vernacular and attitudes of a new generation.

JAGUAR is not much different. While a significant shift from the work on the aforementioned juggernaut of a pop album, the project exists in a similar lyrical playground. Like the animal she embodies, Monét stalks the line of surface pop and more meaningful messages of self-empowerment and confidence. It plays as an extended resume for an artist still waiting for her increasingly imminent day in the sun.

Opening with the previously released “Moment,” Monét declares herself as an up next A-lister. “So fuck a fantasy, this your motherfuckin’ moment,” she states. Both to the listener in herself, Monét instills a sense of confidence that immediately envelops the listener into the sultry funk of the record.

This sense of self-promotion continues on “Big Boss,” an smooth, silky interlude. It acts as a bridge perhaps the biggest standout on the album, “Dive.”

Similar to Wale and Rihanna’s “Bad,” the track’s production weaves the sound of a bed spring with classic funk in horns and drums. It slyly flips the script on the traditional R&B sex songs often put out by male performers. Monét is in complete control here, commanding her partner through a night in bed. The singer’s voice is immediately disarming on the track.

The crux of the album lays in its title track, “Jaguar.” The latest single off of the album, the track bridges the slower, more sensual R&B of the first half with the dance beats of the latter portion. More, it showcases some of the stickiest songwriting on the entire record, with Monét dissolving into her pop persona seamlessly. It paves the way for the fun collaboration with SG Lewis and Khalid in “Experience” and lead single “Ass Like That.”

The final two tracks continue the hot streak. With an album so slender, each song needs to have enough weight to standout. With JAGUAR, it’s evident Monét delicately strung together these songs to formulate the album’s world. “Go There With You” features the playful contemporary voice the singer penned on thank u, next. “We’re picking fights like its fortnite,” she asserts. Youthful and provocative, it’s a deep cut that bleeds gold.

Concluding the album is the sexually fluid “Touch Me.” Reminiscent of other R&B artists from Kehlani to SZA, the song is another smash. Describing the song in a discussion with Apple Music, Monét stated, “Instead of thinking about this song completing the project, I wanted it to be more of a pathway into part two for when the project completes itself as an album.” It’s the perfect “to be continued” title card, departing before overstaying its welcome.

The album is, well, a jaguar – light on its feet, quietly confident, and quick. At just 9 tracks, it’s a smooth shot of tequila. “Get to know me inside. If you love me, show me,” Monét pleads in the album’s final moment. It’s this call to action to everyone listening that she leaves listeners with.

Victoria Monet has declared her presence, and demands those supporting her to make it known.


Ordinary is extraordinary on “Hot.”

outline
Hot., Yavin

In a world where heavily curated Instagram feeds and expertly vetted artist branding are the most powerful tools to a successful career in music, Boston based pop artist Yavin just wants to organically connect to his fans.

“I want listeners to feel seen,” Yavin explains. “I’m trying to be ordinary and allowing myself to shine through.”

Shine he does.

Throughout the last few years, the artist has put out two full length LP’s in Romance. and Growing Up. On top of that, the singer/songwriter has grown his following through select live shows around the greater Boston area.

When this momentum was exponentially growing, as is the case for the rest of the world, the pandemic got in his way.

“The weekend after [public spaces] began shutting down, I was scheduled to play a show in Pittsburgh, PA,” Yavin remembers in reflecting on the show’s cancellation. His second out of state show, the live appearance would have been an exciting new step for an artist still juggling a day job with his more than full time gig as a musician.

This water tread balancing act has been at the forefront of Yavin’s experience for quite a while.

What started as a hobby in college in 2015 became a serious career opportunity two years later in 2017, the year of his first album, Romance.‘s, release. Yavin began working with a producer at school, recording and releasing his first song during his time in college.

After leaving school, Yavin decided he had to go full throttle with music. Two albums and a few singles later, “Hot.” has arrived.

“Beauty standards can be exhausting,” the artist expresses. While this reigns true across social environments globally, it has an added twist of the knife in the self-proclaimed “safe spaces” permeated across queer pockets around the globe.

“Hot.” dives beneath the often shallow mentality of those on the hunt for conventionally beautiful people in nightclubs, adopting a fantastical narrative of having the courage to approach someone way out of one’s league and succeeding.

“I’m not your type – I’m hardly even mine,” Yavin states on the track. Cheeky and self-deprecating, it’s a pop song that exists as the best ones do; on the surface, it’s bubbly and fun; but, underneath it all, there’s a lot unpack. Structurally, it mimics Yavin’s longing for the beholder to see beyond his appearance and get to know him.

Written entirely by the artist with production from Dephrase, the all too relatable “Hot.” is a bouncy synth pop single with hints of Lorde and Troye Sivan. In fact, Yavin cites Lorde and Ellie Goulding, among others, as having an influence on his work. He combines his passion for contemporary electropop artists with earlier 21st century lyricists like Jason Mraz and Sara Bareilles. Bring these together, Yavin forms a bright, fun, lyrically driven concoction.

That said, “Hot.” is an entirely fresh, forward thinking statement from an artist with a familiar perspective. Working independently, Yavin has been able to navigate and learn about the industry proactively. Some of his best friends to date are musicians he’s met throughout his journey.

On being queer in the music industry today, Yavin expresses his understanding of the challenges and drawbacks that continue to exist, but spotlights the many silver linings.

One such strength is the greater sense of community and belonging.

“A lot of my musician friends are queer,” Yavin celebrates. With a collective understanding, often shared experiences, and an open-minded empathy few can boast, this community is all the artist needs to continue pushing forward his career in music.

Whenever live venues do finally open up, the electro-pop innovator will be off to the races.


Dominic Fike’s ‘What Could Possibly Go Wrong’ is some superstar shit

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong, Columbia Records

“Call me what you want, when you want, if you want,” Dominic Fike stated in his breakthrough single “3 Nights.” Aloof, monotonous, and oh so cool, the single instantly shot the singer into the realm of artists to be born out of the Frank Ocean incubator.

Drawing inspiration from the likes of the aforementioned mogul and his group Odd Future, Fike is one of many contemporary artists to blend pop, rap, and R&B in a way that feels like what can only be described as Gen Z punk. It’s brash, rebellious, and manic.

This cocktail of carnage continues as it’s spread across the sporadic and emotional tracks on Fike’s debut album What Could Possibly Go Wrong. Dropping the question mark, the album title is less a question than a powerful statement of what, exactly, has gone wrong for Fike throughout the early years of his still steadily progressing career.

Thematically weaving together tales of toxic relationships, family and self destruction, the project is, for better or worse, a concise, raw glimpse into the mind of the Florida artist. It plays largely like demo tapes, with Fike adopting an often jarring blend of rock, rap, R&B and pop. Its a free flowing stream of consciousness, decidedly messy and intentionally imperfect.

Opening with “Come Here,” Fike doesn’t grip the listener so much as he forces their attention on him. Like The 1975’s “People” off their recent project Notes On A Conditional Form, it’s an urgent, impactful introduction to the project.

Fike’s self destruction continues most notably on tracks “Superstar Sh*t,” “Cancel Me” and “What’s For Dinner?” On the former, Fike outlines the ongoing loss of a relationship that directly resulted from his sudden success and the pitfalls associated with fame in the digital age. Doubled down by the production, Fike sounds like he’s literally underwater, trapped and drowning in a bottle of his demons.

On “What’s For Dinner?” Fike perpetuates this narrative, discussing his struggles with drugs and alcohol and its influence on his personal relationships. “I just got back from the gastroenterologist. He told me that I can’t drink, so now I be high and shit,” he concedes, disappointed.

“Cancel Me” combines this mental strife with the family theme. The stickiest track on the album, “Cancel Me” is one of the strongest singular statements Fike offers. It’s an often tongue and check declaration of his apathy towards the Hollywood machine. Not only that, it influences thoughts of nostalgia and longing for a past life outlined on “Good Game.”

With “Good Game,” Fike creatively adopts the perspective of his father. A slower, sunnier track, it illustrates the flawed, encouraging support from Fike’s father. More important, it’s a depiction of his father’s ploy to motivate Fike away from suffering a similar fate. The safety of the guitar riffs envelopes Fike as he smoothly delivers the goods, free from the corruption and fraught nature of the LA music scene.

Fike takes a play from the book of John Mayer for “Vampire,” drawing inspiration from Mayer’s “Neon” and “Vultures.” The track’s opening guitar riff is immediately reminiscent of the former, with the titular bloodsucking nature of LA culture lending itself to the latter’s lyricism. The track is an evidently tired metaphor only forgiven by Fike’s charismatic delivery and sticky vocals.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong also outlines the facets of Fike’s romantic life through the lens of several relationships. The brilliance of this comes in the dichotomy of tracks “Why” and “Chicken Tenders.” On “Why,” Fike challenges his partner to think more deeply on why she navigates her suffocating job, relationships and colleagues with such complacency.

“You ever wonder why?” he asks her.

That rumination quickly resolves into one of the album’s more positive tracks “Chicken Tenders.” Living lavishly in a hotel room, Fike outlines the gluttonous glee of constant food and sex within the solace of a private environment.

That euphoria is proven fleeting, as outlined on one of the final track “Wurli.” Coming in towards the finish line, this gem of a song is easy to overlook, but it features some of the most emotionally palpable lyricism on the album. Painting the portrait of a relationship where Fike lacks all control, it adds another layer to the album’s toxicity.

The only main pitfall of the record is its length. Many of the songs feel unfinished, leaving the listener dissatisfied and longing for more.

Perhaps it was never meant to be finished. Rather, it’s a choice on an album where no decision feels rushed or accidental. Listeners are put in the frame of mind of the artist behind the curtain, feeling exasperated, fleetingly thrilled, and emotionally effected.


Taylor Swift outdoes herself on ‘folklore’

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folklore, Republic Records

Taylor Swift wasn’t kidding when she exclaimed, “I promise that you’ll never find another like me!” The hook to her 2019 album Lover‘s laughably bad lead single, the statement has never reigned more true than it does today.

Gone is any trace of that pop star. In her place is a daring songwriter unafraid to explore the depths of her emotion and mastery of narrative.

On the eve of its release, Swift announced folklore, a 16 song collection of indie folk songs birthed from the imagination of an indefinitely quarantined Taylor Swift. In describing the album, Swift states, “I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing from the perspective of people I’ve never met, people I’ve known, or those I wish I hadn’t.”

This diversity of perspective and point of view enriches Swift in a way listeners have yet to hear. In reflecting on her own life, Swift thinks of a childhood friend with a difficult home life (“seven”), cloaks herself in a fable of a woman seeking vengeance on a town that has wronged her (“mad woman”), and celebrates unconditional love (“invisible string”).

Swift extends her talents beyond herself, applying her imagination to the folklore that aptly titles the record. Blurring the lines of history and fiction, Swift creates a trilogy of nostalgic tracks. These songs (“cardigan,” “august,” and “betty”) play with time and perspective, depicting a high school love triangle and its permanence in the memories of each party.

Further expanding the already quietly epic saga are songs alluding to history. On “the last great american dynasty,” Swift tells the story of Rebekah Harkness and her Holiday House, the Rhode Island mansion Swift would come to own. Like “mad woman,” Swift delicately sprinkles herself in the story, weaving her own mistakes into the fabric of Harkness’s life and story. Similarly, one of the most poignant moments on the record comes in “epiphany,” during which Swift pays homage to her grandfather while empathetically thinking of health workers working on a new kind of front line.

Much of the strength of folklore lays in the proof that overexposure and fame taint even the strongest of creative minds. In fact, the singer’s strongest musical statements were created from the privacy of her several homes across the globe. From reputation‘s “Delicate” to Lover‘s “Cornelia Street,” Swift has come into her own as a private person.

This newfound seclusion has really given Swift the necessary space to thrive in her exploration of the craft that brought her so much obsessive scrutiny and attention.

With folklore, Swift takes this isolation a step further, veiling once on the nose songwriting in freshly tinged metaphor. With the help of The National’s Aaron Dessner, longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, and indie king Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Swift begins again.

For the first time, Swift desolves beneath the surface of these stories. The music is no longer the diary of a naive suburban girl. This is a fully matured woman collecting scattered memories and stories, weaving them together in an intricate tapestry broadcasting the emotional spectrum. At its center, as it always is with Swift, is love.

This is an album Taylor herself needed to write, but the constraints of superstardom, pressures of pleasing the masses and those who dare lock her in a box prevented that, until now. Drawing inspiration from artists like Lana Del Rey (“cardigan,” “seven”) The Cranberrys (“august,” “mirrorball”), and sprinkles of her own past work (“Safe & Sound,” “Holy Ground”) Swift amplifies her songwriting. She shatters the magnifying glass that is the modern media’s exploitative infatuation with women in power.

In this deconstruction, Swift finally sheds the image she’s been running from since 2017’s reputation. With Lover acting as a necessary palette cleanser and closure to the pop chapter of the singer’s career, folklore is a new beginning in so many ways.

Many albums of this length, including some from Swift’s discography, unavoidably include a few duds. With this album, though, not a single song is worth skipping. While the final third of the album is noticeably slower, it only brightens the spotlight on Swift’s astonishing, unparalleled lyricism. Closing the album with “peace” and “hoax,” Swift challenges listeners to think of a better songwriter in the industry today, and they’ll likely struggle to muster one.

For anyone to doubt the limitless talents and constantly impressive metamorphosis of Taylor Swift at this point is as fleeting as the romance the singer relates on “august.” Unlike that subject matter, it will take more than a bottle of wine to sip away folklore.


LA serenader jame has a lot to offer on ‘If U Want Me’

“I’m inspired a lot by atmosphere – scenery, colors. Every time I write a song I think of a place,” jame says over the phone on a Wednesday afternoon from the walls of his Los Angeles apartment.

This imagery, inspiring and enveloping, is the fabric of the singer-songwriter’s debut project, Harmless. A delightful 8-track collection dedicated to loss and letting go, it’s a taste of more to come from the mind of a consistently evolving artist.

Born Patrick James Minogue, jame grew up in Perth Amboy in New Jersey. His father is from Kilkenney, Ireland, and his mother is from the Dominican Republic. jame’s interest in music came to him at an early age. Noted by his parents, this penchant was always present to those around him, even when it may not have been to himself.

“My parents say when I was a little kid, I used to get all the pots and pans in the house, pick off tree branches outside and pretend to play drums on them,” he tells me. The subtle makings of a burgeoning producer, these early moments alluded to what would soon encapsulate jame’s life; music.

At 15, he began writing his own music. Inspired by popular punk bands from Green Day to My Chemical Romance, jame utilized his inspirations as entry points for learning instruments. By high school, he started working with other musicians, playing talent shows mostly as a drummer before assuming his role as a lead singer.

The earlier years of his pursuit of the craft were not free of struggle. Growing up in a completely Latinx town, jame’s passions were often met with criticism from those around him.

“My town definitely had those kinds of people who would say things like, ‘You’re Hispanic/Latino. It’s impossible to make it in music, you need a plan b,’” jame explains. These obstacles only fueled the fire, encouraging the artist to move out of his hometown and into somewhere more suitable for his musical growth.

That environment came in the form of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Securing a spot in the prestigious program, Minogue soon joined forces with a few peers to form The Penthouse, an indie pop trio. The group decided to take their act to LA to keep evolving and be closer to the action.

5 months into the coast to coast move, the band broke up.

Now a solo act in a big city, Minogue worked to curate a stage persona that was singular, impassioned, and true to himself. In June 2019, jame was born. The first piece of Harmless came shortly thereafter in the form of standout single “Freefall.”

“‘Freefall’ felt like being in a humid room with a lot of plants and windows, having a fan blow on me the whole time,” jame illustrates in describing the images and colors that inspired the songs on the project. “[When I think ‘Freefall,’] I think about the color blue.”

The remainder of Harmless doubles down on the themes of processing grief – that of relationships, friendships, past selves. Just when that catharsis felt near completion, the ongoing pandemic hit. For many like jame, this newly suffocating reality gave way to struggles in creativity and songwriting.

“I had to learn to go [more deeply] inside myself and write from there,” jame admits. “Halfway through quarantine I taught myself to write music from a different place. I’m at a super creative place now vs the beginning [of the pandemic].”

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“If U Want Me,” jame

This creative place is the incubator for the artist’s latest single, “If U Want Me.”

A bit of a departure from his earlier work, the new single grows from the narrative of Harmless, providing the lens for a new chapter – one filled with closure and moving forward. It deals with the all too heavy reality of love in the digital age, even more overwhelmingly pressurized by the Covid-induced digital dystopia many find themselves trapped in today.

“In this new stage, I’ve let go of everything,” jame expresses in describing the wake of Harmless. “[If U Want Me] is a lot more upbeat – it sounds a lot more positive. The song focuses on online dating and how our form of communication has changed from in person to online.”

From a supplement to a driving force, online dating has evolved into a now integral aspect of modern relationships. Through “If U Want Me,” jame captures this development.

Earthy and summer ready, the mid tempo jam is, for better or worse, one of the most relatable tracks to come out of quarantining as a twenty-something. jame beautifully captures the collective unease of being a young adult pursuing romance today.

What’s next?

Time will tell, but if “If U Want Me” is any sign of what’s coming from those apartment walls, listeners are in for a treat.


Feature: Ambitious pop act Tamara is cookin in quarantine

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From Fairfield, Connecticut, emerging talent Tamara has worked tirelessly to grow as an artist in today’s pop music landscape. The confident creator was brought up largely in New York City where she attended high school.

During her later years in school, Tamara’s passion became clear. Recording, writing, and collaborating with producers around the city, Tamara landed a spot in the coveted Bandier Program within the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Now a junior, Tamara continues to grow her sound and her network.

With dreams of continuing to master her sound and dip her toes in the production space, Tamara works to get to the next level after she finishes her degree next year. I had a chance to chat with the ever-evolving artist. We talked inspirations, goals, and what it means to be an artist in today’s industry.


UNSOLICITED: How has isolation been going for you so far?

Tamara: Worst question of the summer (laughs)! I just came back from a trip to Vermont about three days ago. My life was significantly different before I left. I had this online class I hadn’t started yet and when I came back things started picking up, but its a good thing.

U: How has the songwriting/recording process been throughout quarantine? 

T: Whether it’s in this time period or not, my creativity comes in waves. Obviously before COVID it was a lot easier to have access to recording, but I mostly write songs late at night during sad boy hours. What I write isn’t necessarily in that space, but when my night owl instincts come in I just go.

I record all my singles with my producer, Joey Auch, who lives in Brooklyn Heights, but I can’t see him right now. I have another friend, Lucas Dell’Abate, in Greenwich who has equipment – we go to my pool house and record from there. If you’re passionate about something, you make it work.

U: Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations?

T: Personally, I’m geared for pop music. The reason I’ve done some EDM and electropop is because I have a lot of friends in that space who I’ve been able to collaborate with.

In terms of inspirations, I love Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now has been on repeat. Another artist I’ve been inspired by is TS Graye. She’s inspired my sound through nostalgia. I exist in a space that’s half nostalgia, half bad bitch. I’m feeling nostalgic, but I’m not to be fucked with (laughs).

U: When did you first start to think about forming a career in music?

T: Junior year of high school. I had a huge epiphany during my sophomore year when I realized it would be really tough, but it was what I was supposed to do. I decided I couldn’t live my life going through a 9-5 and hating my life. From that moment forward I started working on technique to the point where I felt comfortable enough to go to my producer the next year.

I started working with my producer, and he’s kind of evolved with me. Whenever I have an idea but can’t articulate it, he catches my vibe and helps me continue to find my sound. Every time we go in and finish a session, I come back out more fulfilled.

U: What do you see as the pros and cons of the current music industry?

T: With this virus, the live music scene is definitely missed. The touring industry makes up so much of the revenue of this industry. There’s a lot of streaming happening, but there’s a difference from an audience’s perspective of going to a show vs streaming.

Overall, one great thing about the industry right now is the diversity of producers, more women behind the soundboard and seated at the table. We’re starting to tap into that network more. Another great thing is that artists have more time to be consistent. Normally everything is so on the go that now is a good time to step back and plan out music releases.

U: Where do you want your music to go, sonically and in audience growth?

T: Sonically, I work with my sound song by song. Every artist wants their numbers and audience to increase. Obviously my music connects to me because I’m the one writing it. I can’t sit down and force it to connect with somebody else.

The great thing about music is that there’s more than one aspect to listen to. If you don’t like the lyrics, maybe you’ll like the melody; if you don’t like the melody, maybe you’ll like the beat behind it. There are different aspects of a song that people can connect to.

Personally, I just want people to find one of these things to connect to in my songs. I don’t need you to relate to me. If you do, that’s great and I’m genuinely happy; but, my purpose on this Earth was not to people please. I just want my music to be out there in a way where people appreciate it and love it for what it is.

U: When you’re recording a song, do you think about what will resonate with a bigger audience? Are you surprised by what sticks vs. what doesn’t?

T: When I’m recording I don’t think about anyone else’s take. When I’m in the studio, I’m paying attention to how it sounds to me. I start to think in that space moreso after the song has been released.

I know, sonically, what’s more popular; but, that’s not always the take that I go for and I’m fine with that. I take a lot of pride in who I am as a person and my individuality. When I’m in the studio I don’t think about Top 40. I just go in there and its me. Sometimes it ends up sounding like Top 40, and sometimes it sounds like something different.

I’ve come a long way and I’m grateful for the people who have helped me and the program I’m in, but I still have a very long way to go. I credit my knowledge and my willingness to move forward to myself and to my program.