Early last month, I decided to try something new. You see, I have a whole bunch of music I’ve never listen to, so I thought I’d better start exploring.

If you know me, you’ll find my initial selection a bit of a surprise. I started with Taylor Swift’s 1989. I was very curious about her because not only can one not avoid her in the popular press, but I’ve read that she really is very good.

So I listened. My first run though the record was a positive experience. She’s got a lovely voice and the music is inventive. The thing is, I really don’t expect much from pop music, because most of it is lacklustre. Swift’s offering is better than most, but only on subsequent plays did I really ‘get it.’

She is indeed a gifted writer, and her songs are incredibly catchy. This is especially true if you really listen. The record is pop, but even with that limitation, I can’t help but recommend it.

I really appreciate the diversity in the stories related in the songs. They’re not all happy endings, or sad endings. Granted most are about relationships, but even those can be presented in novel ways. She has said that she doesn’t always write about personal experiences, but it’s easy to see that sometimes she does.

The devil is in the details right? Although these are not enough to get me to listen to her on their own, they really jump out at me as unusual strengths:

  • Her vocal overdubs are incredibly good. Whether improvised or carefully planned, her harmony and counterpoint further highlight her composing skills.
  • I love that not a single track on the record ends in a fade-out.
  • To compliment her composition, her lyrics are just as strong. Put them together and there’s often a synergy of mood and atmosphere. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it works very well.

All that said, there are a few issues:

  • This record is yet another unfortunate victim of the loudness wars. The album rates a DR6 which is pretty poor.
  • I’ve heard the music’s sub genre labeled electro pop, which explains why there are very few non-electronic instruments. It works, but it can be a little much at times.
  • Related to the last point, there’s a lot of sampling, but some of it is not nearly as polished as I would expect on such a slick production.

tl,dr: Good music, great lyrics, and terrific vocals combine to make a record that you really should hear. Definitely recommended.