New concert documentary, ‘Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions’ does not disappoint

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Photo from taylorswift.com

Swift surprised fans with her surprise album and movie

On November 25, Disney+ released a documentary titled Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions. The film is a collection of performances of the songs of Taylor Swift’s surprise album. Released in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic on July 24, 2020, the album, titled Folklore, explores themes different from the rest of her discography, with an alternative, folksy feel to it. The calming instrumentals in the album really let the lyrics shine and showcase how much Swift’s songwriting has grown over the span of her career.

In the documentary, Swift, along with Aaron Dessner (co-writer and producer of the album) and Jack Antonoff (co-writer and producer) came together from Long Pond Studio in New York State to discuss how the album came to be. The film features Swift singing all sixteen tracks on Folklore, along with one bonus track on the deluxe version of the album, with Dessner and Antonoff providing the instrumental music for each song. Before each song, Swift discusses the process of writing the song, the inspiration for it, and how it ties into her own life.

As a fan of Swift’s music, I very much enjoyed the documentary. Much of the movie was Swift performing the songs on the album, and I found myself mouthing the lyrics that I knew. However, since the songs were acoustic versions, they were different from the originals. The information revealed in the documentary put many of the songs into a context that fans may not have realized or known before. Swift also reveals the identity of William Bowery, who is listed as a co-writer for two of the tracks on the album and how Bowery isn’t a real person.

Folklore is Swift’s first studio album that strays away from her country roots and pop hits. The album was announced only a day prior to its release. The documentary was also announced a day before its release in a similar fashion, with Swift posting on her social media saying “not a lot going on at the moment”. I really liked the spontaneity of the announcements, as the album didn’t need to be preceded by a big lead single or a bunch of promotions. It really shows how raw Folklore is.

Another surprise was that only a couple songs in the album are about Swift’s own life; the singer said that much of the album is based off of images that popped into her head and stories of characters whom she came up with.

The lyrics of the song “The Last Great American Dynasty” are about Rebekah Harkness. She was the wife of Bill Harkness, the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. Rebekah Harkness was one of the richest women in America at the time, but was blamed for so many things that happened at “Holiday House”, the Harknesses’ home. At the end of the song, Swift sings about how the house “was bought by me [Swift]” in such a chilling way and even compares herself to Rebekah Harkness. In the documentary, she talks about the inspiration behind the song and how she had been wanting to write about Rebekah Harkness for a long time.

Swift also goes into more depth on her “Teenage Love Triangle”, a collection of three songs on the album that includes “August”, “Betty”, and the lead single “Cardigan”. Each song is from the perspective of a person who was part of the fictional love triangle, and the lyrics of the tracks tie together in different ways to create a deep story.

For example, the lyrics “Remember when I pulled up/And said get in the car” in “August” are a direct parallel to “when she pulled up/Like a figment of my worst intentions/She said ‘James, get in, let’s drive'” in “Betty”. Both of the lyrics show the same story from different perspectives. Swift also speaks about the feelings of each person in the love triangle, and how she thinks the story ended. It left me a little sad at the end, but I particularly loved her performances of the three songs.

Another memorable part of the film was when Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) appeared to sing “Exile”, a duet with lyrics that reflect the thoughts of two people in a broken relationship. Vernon was seen through a video stream from Wisconsin, wearing a mask. I think the fact that he was that considerate to wear a mask to protect whomever was filming him and could still sing really well really stuck with me.

All songs were performed were acoustic versions of the originals, and I really loved how only a couple of instruments were used so that Swift’s vocals would be the main focus. Many of the songs performed in the documentary were even better than the original versions. Some of them, like “Mirrorball” and “Epiphany” were much more emotional and raw with just a few instruments to go with the lyrics. Some other memorable performances in the film are “The Lakes”, “Peace”, “Illicit Affairs”, and “My Tears Ricochet”.

I would recommend this to any fan of Swift’s previous discography and anyone else, really. Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions is a concert film that does not disappoint; the ideas that the album encompasses as well as the musical and lyrical genius behind the songs are worthy enough reasons to watch the film and stream the album.

10/10