The first few months of 2024 have seen some great new records. The Black Crowes put out a great record "Happiness Bastards", as did The Black Keys with "Ohio Players". We've seen Beyonce go Country and while people are arguing whether it is Country or not, most have decided it's a good to great record. It may have been, arguably, the biggest release until today, that's when Taylor Swift released "The Tortured Poets Department", which I listened to twice yesterday. What follows are my first impressions.

First, Swifties will love the record, that goes without saying. I'd go a step further and say if you enjoy most of Taylor's music, you can get into this record. What I mean by that is, I liked Taylor's country records, I liked "1989", and really got into "Midnights", I thought "Lover" was OK, but I didn't get into "Evermore" or "Folklore". I'm not saying they're bad records, just that they didn't pique my interest personally.

My first impression of "The Tourtured Poets Department" is that it's a largely mid-tempo to mellow record with that Taylor Swift pop signature in the production and arrangement of the music. I was listening in the car while driving, and then in my office while working, so I wasn't giving it my undivided attention, but it's a strong musical effort from front to back. Familiar, comfortable, and new all at once.

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For me, car listening and doing other things while listening to a record doesn't lend itself to getting into the characters an artist is singing about, the stories being told, or perhaps the messages they're trying to convey. Especially when hearing music for the first or second time.

Yet throughout my ride to work, and while I was working, several lyrical phrases and descriptions she was singing about throughout the album made me want to listen to it again, more closely. It's the lyrical phrases I heard throughout the album that cut through whatever else I was doing that made me decide to get the album on vinyl.

Standout tracks to me include the first radio single "Fortnight" featuring Post Malone, the album's title track, "So Long London", "Florida!!!" featuring Florence and the Machine, and the cut that for better or worse might be the track that comes to define this collection, "Who's Afraid of Little Old Me".

This album's first two casual listens make me want to sit down later in the evening, turn the lights down, mix up a cocktail, and lose myself in the stories and characters Taylor's singing about. If you generally like Taylor's music, or are open to it, you might find the same thing happens to you.

BTW, if you're of age and inclined to join me in a cocktail while listening to "The Tortured Poets Department", my friend Bill suggests a classic cocktail called The Aviation, which includes gin, creme de Violette, lemon, and maraschino. If you're inspired, here's a link to the recipe.

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