The past year has been full of hopelessness, heavy burdens and bad news.

Enter Taylor Swift, who’s given her fans exactly what they’ve needed to get through the last 12 months in the form of not one, but two phenomenal surprise albums.

There are truly no words to describe just how deeply the lyrics and sounds of folklore and evermore hit. Both albums are stark departures from Swift’s usual upbeat pop albums full of radio hits and catchy beats. Her new work features softer, gentler melodies, many of which were created by the genius that is Aaron Dessner of The National. While they may not make you want to jump around and dance, they do cut to the core and reach deep into your soul.

No longer are Swift’s albums brimming with personal relationship details and breakup songs. Folklore and evermore push the boundaries of how music can be a medium for storytelling, including both reflections on Swift’s past relationships (she is, after all, in the process of re-recording her music) and epic tales of love stories that aren’t hers.

I love being able to live vicariously through characters, and folklore and evermore allowed me to do that through music for the first time. I could so vividly sense the inevitability and heartbreak of “champagne problems” (my favorite song on evermore); the protagonist’s deep yearning and sadness on “tolerate it” felt like they were my own emotions; “invisible string” single-handedly reignited my belief in destiny.

I cried, more times than I could count. I had no idea what to expect when I first pressed play on folklore, and when I realized “the 1” was about a failed relationship and not about having found the one … that’s when the tears started. Listening to “my tears ricochet,” “hoax,” and then so many of the songs on evermore months later was like taking a knife to the heart over and over again, especially after the pure, unadulterated joy that was Lover.

Every bridge contained a well of different feelings. Swift is famous for her heart-wrenching bridges (“All Too Well,” anyone?!), but these albums took it to new heights. No matter how many times I listened to each song, the bridges never failed to take my breath away with the sheer, raw emotion that was expressed. I feel connected to these songs like no other music I’d ever listened to.

Then there’s arguably the most captivating story on both of the albums: the trilogy of “cardigan,” “august” and “betty.”  

All the lyrical parallels in “cardigan,” “august” and “betty.”

The first few times I listened to these three songs, I was confused. I didn’t enjoy them all that much, and the stories didn’t seem particularly meaningful or interesting to me. Then I started connecting the dots.

As soon as I realized they were related (it was the bridge in “august” and the reference to a cardigan in “betty” that confirmed it for me), I was in awe. Discovering new Easter eggs in each of the songs became one of my favorite pastimes, and I couldn’t believe how Swift had managed to tell such a complex, nuanced and emotional story in just three songs.

In the bridge of “coney island,” Swift references four of her past relationships.

The constant hints and subtle nods that Swift includes in her songs add yet another dimension of analysis and discussion potential that I, along with many other fans, spent hours researching. These albums gave Swifties two gifts: 34 new songs and something to get excited about.

Swift gave us a momentary escape from the numbness and feeling that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Folklore and evermore brought unexpected and happy anticipation, something that’s been almost impossible to find for the past year.

Though most of the songs on folklore and evermore are tragic, they all brought an indescribable amount of joy and love to so many lives — in other words, their effect was anything but tragic.