Last week Taylor Swift surprised the world with the shock-drop release of her eighth album ‘Folklore’. Collaborating with indie heroes Bon Iver and The National‘s Aaron Dessner, the pop star underwent a modern folk makeover, with ‘Folklore’ sounding like she took a trip to her metaphorical cabin in the woods in which she crafted a collection of earthy, relaxed songs.
And while we have only just been treated to new T-Swiz music, now we’ve been welcomed further into the world ‘Folklore’ – if only for 24-hours – as Swift has just shared the ‘cabin in candlelight’ version of the album’s lead single ‘cardigan’. Currently available for download and on CD and vinyl until tonight (July 30) at midnight Eastern Time, it’s a brief peek into what the earliest demoes from ‘Folklore’ could have been.
It’s the sound of Swift’s cabin in the woods when the power goes out. The electricity that crackles through the glittering production on the album version courtesy of Dessner is gone, and instead Swift has to rely on acoustic instruments: a twinkling piano here, a soft acoustic guitar there and a handful shimmering pizzicato strings thrown into the mix. You half expect to hear her vocals muffled by the extra layers she’s had to put on due to the heating turning off, or a background hiss courtesy of a freshly lit log fire.
Before, ‘Cardigan’ evoked The National’s last album ‘I Am Easy to Find’, alongside Lana Del Rey and the ‘80s laced synth-pop of ‘1989’, but here it’s reimagined as a lo-fi folk tune. It’s utterly lovely – filled with sweet Sufjan Stevens-inspired arrangements, with the full focus on Swift’s vocal melodies (the vocal track sounds unchanged), meaning they now feel like they could have fallen off an early Bon Iver album.
Coming with an accompanying video that showcases behind-the-scenes footage from the album photoshoot (the visuals of Swift stomping around the countryside are free advertising for the cottagecore movement), the whole of the “cabin in the candlelight” version feels like a glimpse behind the curtain of how ‘Folklore’ was made.
Sceptics have claimed that Swift is only releasing this version to help the song along to number one. Whatever: the ‘cabin in the candlelight’ demo is a rare treat. Close your eyes and join Taylor in her cabin forced, light the candles, put on the moth-eaten cardigan you dug out from a dusty wardrobe (or, y’know, the ‘folklore’-branded one available on her website).