For fans of Taylor Swift everywhere, 2020 won’t be that bad of a year. In a surprise move that no one saw coming, Taylor, 30, released her eighth studio album, folklore, on July 24, and with it came a video for “cardigan.” In the visual, which Taylor also wrote and directed, she travels through her piano to a whimsical forest, and then into choppy waters, before eventually heading back home and to her safe space.
“Cardigan” is the first single off of folklore, and it’s a song that reminisces on a young love. With lyrics like “I knew you’d come back to me,” and “You tried to change the ending, Peter losing Wendy,” the song has a nostalgic feel, and the video is no different. “The song is about a romance and why young love is often fixed so permanently within our memories,” Taylor explained during a live stream on July 23. “Why it leaves such an indelible mark.”
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,” wrote Taylor when announcing the video on July 23, one day before folklore’s arrival. To say that Swifties woke up that day to some good news would be an understatement. For fans of her early work, folklore hinted that Taylor was briefly stepping away from the pop sound on albums like Lover!, Reputation, and 1989 for a more indie-folk vibe.
“Most of the things I had planned this summer didn’t end up happening,” wrote Taylor at the start of the folklore announcement, “but there is something I hadn’t planned on that DID happen. And that thing is my 8th studio album, folklore. Surprise! … I’ll be releasing my entire band 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.”
These heroes contained some notable names in the indie rock/indie folk world. Aaron Dessner of The National was credited with co-writing or producing 11 of the 16 songs on folklore. folklore also included some of Aaron’s bandmates — Bryan Devendorf and Bryce Dessner – as well as the band Bon Iver, who sing with Taylor on “exile.”
In addition to them, folklore features Ben Lanz, Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Rob Moose (yMusic, Bon Iver), Josh Kaufman (Bonny Light Horseman), Clarice Jensen (yMusic), JT Bates, Kyle Resnick (The National, Beirut), and Yuki Numata Resnick. Taylor’s longtime collaborator (she called him “basically musical family at this point”) Jack Antonoff is also a co-writer and producer. She also co-wrote two songs with “William Bowery.”
“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,” Taylor wrote at the end of her announcement. “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.”