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Almost 15 years ago, singer-songwriter Justin Vernon retreated to his family’s remote Wisconsin cabin and emerged with For Emma, Forever Ago, the star-making debut indie-folk LP from his Bon Iver project. In the years since, Vernon has worked with everyone from Kanye West to James Blake to Vince Staples. He can now add Taylor Swift to that list.
On Thursday morning (July 23), Swift announced that a new studio album, her eighth, would drop on Friday. Called Folklore, the album consists of, as Swift tweeted, “songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into.” To help those plans come to life, Swift enlisted help from Vernon (“who co-wrote and was kind enough to sing on one with me,” as she wrote) as well as The National’s Aaron Dessner.
Vernon’s presence is fitting, given how Swift said she “wrote and recorded this music in isolation.” Alongside him and Dessner — with whom Swift co-wrote or produced 11 of the album’s 16 songs — Folklore also features collaborations with William Bowery and producer Jack Antonoff, who Swift calls “basically musical family at this point”; he’s produced all or some of her albums since 1989.
In a note shared on his Twitter, Dessner listed even more collaborators, including fellow National member Bryan Devendorf, who “contributed brilliantly from their respective isolation.”
The tracklist does indeed include 16 songs, though Swift said there’s an addition track called “The Lakes” that’ll be on the physical deluxe edition. Additionally, in honor of Folklore being her eighth album, she’s “made [eight] deluxe CDs & [eight] deluxe vinyls available for 1 week. Each has unique covers & photos.” Those can be found at her official store.
The first video from Folklore will be for the song titled “Cardigan,” and it’ll drop Friday at midnight. Swift said she did her own hair, makeup, and styling, and that everyone on set wore masks and observed social distancing.
“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,” she concluded her note. “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.”
While you wait for Folklore, check out the 2018 album Dessner and Vernon recorded together as Big Red Machine — or their 2009 song that inspired the project — as a nice, stately, folky amuse-bouche that may lend some atmospheric clues about how Folklore might feel.