Entering the world of The National after listening to ‘folklore’

I was a sophomore in high school when I first heard this line from Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together:” “And you would hide away and find your peace of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine.” 

To me, I was that guy: too cool for school, relishing music conversations where I could arrogantly give recommendations to people of bands they have never heard of, trying to find my place in this lonely, lonely world to the sounds of The National and Bon Iver. 

Flash forward to 2020: Swift is one of the biggest music acts in the universe and in a year where female artists have ruled the music scene – with phenomenal records from the likes of Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers and The Chicks – Swift made her presence known, with some help from what I like to coin as “sad-dad music.” 

On her latest record “folklore,” Swift, alongside frequent collaborator and King Midas himself Jack Antonoff, teams up with Aaron Dessner of The National to create this whole new sound, melding aspects of indie rock and pop for a memorable and introspective experience, with the help of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Bryce Dessner (The National). 

So, in the best interest of that arrogant music snob I once was, I wanted to get the chance to introduce Taylor Swift fans to a few songs that may be relatable to her latest. 

Fake Empire

This is the song that first made me fall in love with The National. With Matt Berninger’s lyrics showcasing this idea of personal apathy despite what else is going on in the world, this song builds like no one’s business, crescendoing to this peak of chaos with the help of an infectious trumpet melody. This song gives the best example of who The National is, and what they do best: combining Berninger’s ideas to an incredible instrumental, led by the Dessner brothers. 

Light Years 

This song is going to sound familiar for those who have listened to “folklore.” This track, off The National’s latest record “I Am Easy To Find,” has a lot of similar ideas to this particular Swift  album, especially in Dessner’s piano refrain. Also, Berninger’s lyrics are very personal and introspective, much like Swift’s songwriting style. Based on my listening to “folklore,” it seems as though Swift was influenced a lot by The National’s latest album. 


This song is heart wrenching and so intimate at the same time. Off The National’s 2010 release “High Violet,” “Runaway” is a song depicting a broken relationship, a relationship that the lead singer is fighting to save. Swift fans know about heartbreak and songs about relationships. There is a level of vulnerability here too. 

Guilty Party

Did I mention vulnerability? The same applies to this epic song, co-written by Beninger and his wife Carin Besser about a broken marriage. However, this song uses a lot more digital and electronic sounds, like much of the album “Sleep Well Beast” does, and it builds super well with a captivating guitar riff by Aaron Dessner. 

29 #Strafford APTS 

Since Justin Vernon is credited on two tracks on Swift’s “folklore,” I had to give him some love here. With work in the past with side projects such as DeYarmond Edison and The Shouting Matches, Vernon is no stranger to alt-country and Americana sounds, especially on this track from “22, A Million.” This song shows all of that, with a nice electronic twist. Listening to this song, there should be no surprise why he fits so well with Swift on “exile.”

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