Album review: Taylor Swift – Midnights

Sometimes, one track becomes so unescapable to a Richer Sounds colleague it lives in our heads rent-free, passing from one colleague to another until we’re all intimately aware and familiar with it. One that is still doing the rounds thanks to demo requests, is Anti-Hero by Taylor Swift.

But far from focussing on the one song that runs the risk of being overplayed, how does the whole album, Midnights perform when not relying on the hit single?

‘Lavender Haze’ opens the album with a foggy bassline, illuminated by Swift’s voice – gently touched by reverb, swinging between high melodic hooks and almost spoken word refrains. It lacks the immediate ‘earworm’ qualities that ‘Anti-Hero’ undeniably has, but it presents itself as the perfect concert opener, evoking images of Swift strutting onto the stage drenched in smoke in front of a massive, screaming festival crowd.

‘Midnight Rain’ borrows some of these same throbbing bass tones and spikes them with synth effects to create a… less evocative image. Sadly it’s a forgettable track that largely goes forgotten – but at least it’s tucked away in the middle where all good filler tracks go to die.

Perhaps best known for boppy pop track ‘Shake It Off’, there are slower more introspective tracks that share some boundaries with Miley Cyrus’ later work – even if their respective voices keep them easy to separate. Maroon is a slower, moodier and more winding track than some of her more pacey back catalogue.

‘Maroon’ itself almost seamlessly fades into ‘Anti-Hero’, something that would have been nice to see happen on a gapless playback – but the lyrics themselves tell distinctly different stories. The former seems to sing of lost love and the past; whereas ‘Anti-Hero’ (if you’ve somehow managed to NOT hear this) is Swift singing about her own fears, insecurities and what is to come. The external and past vs the internal and the future.

‘You’re On Your Own, Kid’ threatens some of the more familiar, brighter tones that some may associate Swift with, a gently climbing guitar melody and breezier vocal tones keep teetering on the edge of track suited to an Californian-based teen drama. Suspiciously specific? Go listen to it with the OC, 90210 or something on in the background and tell me I’m wrong. But unlike the waves on the countless beaches in these shows, it never quite crests and falls, nor does it commit to full shoegaze ballad making for a strange mid-ground.

Getting past the midpoint of the album, you’ll possibly end up with the same question I did – where’s the normal pop offering?It’s not that I’m sad about it, Swift has always impressively managed to reinvent and reposition herself, irrespective of what you may think of her, she’s typically right within the zeitgeist of the charts – if not helping to sculpt it. However, as tracks like ‘Vigilante Shit’, ‘Bejeweled’ and ‘Snow on the Beach’ (feat. Lana Del Rey) come and go – I’m left wondering “is this it?”.

The tracks unfortunately all feel rather similar. The lyrical content feels largely shallow asides from a couple of songs listed above; the melodies largely interchangeable between one track to another, feeling as though it was all made from the same base recipe, as opposed to each song standing on its own feet.

There’s a bit of a lifeline towards the end of the album with ‘Karma’. Though it’s largely the same formula as most of the album there’s just enough musical energy and natural vocal tones from Swift to breathe a little extra life into the final throes of the album. Memorable? Still no, but it’s enough to want to move to and tail off the set, bringing us back to the same level as ‘Lavender Haze’ at the start of the album. Not exactly a high, but enough to end a set on a decent level… if we disregard the final two tracks on the album I’m treating it like a festival set.

By the end of the listen, it’s easy to see why ‘Anti-Hero’ was the standout track of the album. I may not be the biggest Taylor Swift fan going – but my ambivalence gives objectivity, in my opinion anyway. In this specific case, the opinion is mediocre.







Author: Tom, Cardiff Store