The Best Places in Portland to Hear Each Track on Red (Taylor's Version)
On November 12, Taylor Swift unveiled Red (Taylor's Version), the latest entry in the pop star's ongoing effort to re-record her back catalogue so she can own each song's masters. (If we're being completely honest, the project's legal intricacies continue to confound me, but here's a fairly comprehensive rundown of the nitty-gritty from Vice.)
I've spent the last several days traipsing around the Rose City with all 2 hours and 10 minutes of Red (Taylor's Version) shredding my eardrums (it features a hefty helping of bonus tracks), and figured it was my duty as a public servant* (*magazine editor) to give you tips on doing the same. So without further ado, here are the best places in Portland to hear each of the 30 parentheses-laden tracks on Red (Taylor's Version).
State of Grace (Taylor’s Version): Eastbank Esplanade
The drums in this get me amped in the specific way that's like, "Man I bet this song would be amazing to run to." I will never try that in my life, but the hotter healthier version of me would probably choose a route along the Eastbank Esplanade, and he'd do a little fist pump when those U2-ass guitars hit in the first chorus. ("We are alone with our changing minds" is one of her best one-liners ever. This song is so good.)
Red (Taylor’s Version): Cully/Rose City Park
"Red" is a great song whose wall-to-wall similes only sometimes make sense, but one of the most evocative is, "His love was like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street." These NE Portland neighborhoods are absolutely teeming with dead-end streets, in case you have a Maserati and want to know what it's like to date Jake Gyllenhaal.
Treacherous (Taylor’s Version): Sandy Hut
I once ghosted a man in real time here because he would not stop talking about Paris. “Smart to walk away” indeed!
I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor’s Version): Bossanova Ballroom
I and some friends have had a handful of (positive!) unprintable experiences that began in this space, and we all acted surprised when they transpired, but at a venue that hosts events with names like “Blow Pony,” it's a little bit like, what did we expect?
All Too Well (Taylor’s Version): The Hollywood Target
This is probably the toughest call on the entire list—where to safely consume Swift's gutting, inarguable magnum opus? Where to shoulder the weight of her immortal couplet "You call me up again just to break me like a promise / So casually cruel in the name of being honest"? IMO, the wallop is best experienced in the toothbrush aisle of the Hollywood Target, due to the fact that I want to not be the only person who has cried to this song there.
22 (Taylor’s Version): Cartopia
The summer after Red came out, my friends and I got a little buzzed and staged a photo essay inspired by the lyrics of "22," which we figured was more or less the funniest thing anyone had ever done. For the "breakfast at midnight" line, we hit up Cartopia's (now-defunct) Perierra Crêperie and posted photos on Facebook that made my mom mad. I invite you to relive our glory.
I Almost Do (Taylor’s Version): Multnomah County Central Library
There are few better "sitting in a chair by the window" spots within city limits, and what says yearning quite like browsing the stacks?
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version): Proud Mary Cafe
The NE Alberta St. outpost of the Melbourne-based coffee and brunch spot is one of my favorite places on planet earth. They make a cappuccino that could bring me back from the dead and those nearest and dearest to me have had to suffer my description of their Earl Grey french toast near-daily for months. However, their (delicious) hash in hand gives me heartburn so bad it made me think I had COVID the day Joe Biden was elected president, and alas, I can never touch it again (like, ever).
Stay Stay Stay (Taylor’s Version): Woonwinkel
I can't explain it but "woonwinkel" sounds like one of the instruments being played on this song. Even though everyone hates "Stay Stay Stay,” I actually think it's pretty fun, which is exactly how I would describe this luxury gift/decor/kitchen shop whenever I pop in during lunch.
The Last Time (ft. Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol) (Taylor’s Version): The Duck Pond at Laurelhurst Park
Apparently, per Google Maps, this is called Firwood Lake, which is news to me, and feels a little too Hobbit-core if I'm being honest. I think this song is kind of silly and overblown, and I cannot imagine how funny it would be to watch ducks fight and/or bob and/or eat some bread while Taylor and Gary wail on those harmonies.
Holy Ground (Taylor’s Version): Movie Madness
It's the best place in Portland! I said it! Any spot where I can grab an out-of-print Andy Warhol film, Josie & the Pussycats on blu-ray, a Naragansett tallboy, and pay a visit to the coat Julianne Moore wears in Magnolia is beyond holy ground. (This song is so good.)
Sad Beautiful Tragic (Taylor’s Version): Cathedral Park
Bar none, Portland’s most high drama park, which is the only appropriate venue for this lush, swooning slice of Mazzy Star melodrama. You could, in theory, stand by the tracks, someone’s face in a locket here—beneath what was once the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi, no less.
The Lucky One (Taylor’s Version): International Rose Test Garden or Peninsula Park
This proto-folklore story song, allegedly inspired by the life of Joni Mitchell (remember this?), mentions a rose garden in its final verse, and look, we've got 30 of these to get through.
Everything Has Changed (ft. Ed Sheeran) (Taylor’s Version): Any Bar That Opened Before 2015
This polished guitar track is not your typical dive bar fare, but in my experience, Portland's more long-term watering holes are amazing places to listen to people talk about how the city used to be one way but is now a different way. "Man, before, things were different," they will say, "and now they’ve changed," as if nothing similar has ever happened in all of human history. By law, these people owe you a shot if they blame Portlandia for the shift. (I'm allowed to say this because I was born in Oregon BTW.)
Starlight (Taylor’s Version): McMenamins Kennedy School
It is always humbling to remember that one of my favorite albums on earth contains a slice of Ethel Kennedy fanfic that sounds like it’s by Owl City. The Kennedy School is actually named after John Daniel Kennedy—no relation to the East Coast dynasty—but whatever. I saw the Jimmy Buffet-starring adaptation of Hoot here with my friend Shane and his mom in 2006, and it was fine.
Begin Again (Taylor’s Version): Maurice
I’ve never actually been on a proper date to Maurice, but in terms of cafes where you might have your faith in love restored by RFK’s son, this chic Scandi-French spot is probably your best bet. Get the rosemary currant scone, it rocks.
The Moment I Knew (Taylor’s Version): Lippman Co.
The inner-SE party supply store is the perfect place to imagine Jake Gyllenhaal missing your birthday while you buy, like, a large bag of kazoos. Maybe if you didn’t buy the kazoos he would have come…
Come Back... Be Here (Taylor’s Version): The Site of the Former SW Alder Food Carts Which Is Slowly Becoming a Ritz Carlton
Taylor actually wrote the line "this is falling for you, and you are worlds away" about how the Ritz Carlton swooped in just as I was getting used to eating Bing Mi for lunch and then it moved all the way up to NW 23rd.
Girl at Home (Taylor’s Version): The Inside of a Microwave
In a tragic public disclosure, I belong to two healthily maintained Taylor Swift group chats, and in one of them, I described the sound of this reworked take on an original Red bonus track as "like I'm inside of a microwave." While I've since warmed up to the new production, I can't fully back down from my initial assertion. (Also this song is, and has always been, bad.)
State of Grace (Acoustic Version) (Taylor’s Version): The Middle of the Old Church After It Closes
We are not suggesting you break and enter, but we are saying that if you wound up in this downtown church-turned-concert venue after hours, and were able to conjure a single tear to carve its way down your flushed cheek, and maybe you were wearing, like, a peacoat, that could be pretty huge for you.
Ronan (Taylor’s Version): Your Bedroom
This song is so sad! Don't let anybody see you listen to it.
Better Man (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault): The Rebranded Korean Place in My Neighborhood That's a Little Less Good Now
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can feel you again...
Nothing New (ft. Phoebe Bridgers) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault): Rocky Butte
My second-favorite extinct cinder cone in the city of Portland became my go-to "be gay and stare at the horizon" spot at the beginning of the pandemic, and while I don't have a car right now and have thus not been up there in a while, I am counting the minutes until I can return and do what needs to be done.
Babe (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault): Cinemagic
Taking this opportunity to shout out the lower-Hawthorne indie theater's decision, in late summer, to screen Babe and Babe: Pig in the City back-to-back with Nic Cage's Pig. I still have the ticket stub from Babe: Pig in the City in my bag ... even now.
Message in a Bottle (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault): The H&M at Pioneer Place
If this song had come out in 2012, it would have razed every single H&M in the continental United States to the ground. This is Carly Rae Jepsen on speed, lacquered with a lethal amount of Scandinavian shimmer, and if you are not careful, listening to it will make you black out and come to with seven new Henleys.
I Bet You Think About Me (ft. Chris Stapleton) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault): Your Local Vaccine Clinic
The music video for this cut features a surprise appearance from Obama-era white boy of the month Miles Teller … who recently made headlines for shutting down production on the set of The Offer because he was reportedly unvaccinated and contracted COVID. No idea where the shoot for this video falls in the greater Teller vaccine timeline (FWIW, he says he's vaxxed now), but we suggest cranking this one while you’re in line to snag your booster.
Forever Winter (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault): Peacock Lane
I’m using "winter" interchangeably with "Christmas" here in a way that feels a little sketchy, but Peacock Lane is our own personal North Pole, and it's a fitting match for this spry if forgettable vault track (co-written with the guy from Foster the People?????).
Run (ft. Ed Sheeran) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault): Seismic Activities
Something I have been thinking about for approximately two years is my late-night Wikipedia discovery that “End Game,” T-Swift’s fever dream R&B collab with Ed Sheeran and Future(!!!) was partially recorded in Portland(!!!!) "Seismic Activities" is the official studio credited, though it's tough to pin down a physical location. If you can find it, honor history by blasting this new (much less insane) Swift/Sheeran collab outside its doors, Say Anything-style.
The Very First Night (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault): Portland International Airport
“I wish I could fly,” Taylor croons on this sunny-sounding slice of rueful jangle pop. “I’d pick you up and we’d go back in time.” Unclear whether the extensive renovations currently in progress at America’s Favorite Airport will be in service of a time travel wing, but you can definitely fly from here. I’ve done it.
All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault): A Car Back to Your Apartment from Alleyway Cafe & Bar
My friend Hailey sent me this long-awaited track the day before the album dropped while I was enjoying a nice whiskey soda at Alleyway and it rocked me to my absolute core. My first listening experience was in a car on the way back to my apartment, and reader, when we got to "You kept me like a secret / But I kept you like an oath"? Nothing was the same. (On the whole the original is the better song, but this is magnificent. Short film bad, SNL performance good.)