Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
An Album Review
Kacey Musgraves’s new album, gorgeous, brilliant, and shimmering, with all the right hooks and atmosphere, may be the best 70s-80s country/pop/folk album I’ve heard since, well, the 70s and 80s.
Many are calling it the pop album of the year.
Golden Hour comes to us, in the words of her song “Butterflies,” as a “kiss full of color.”
Musgraves had her major-label debut in 2013, with Same Trailer Different Park. It won her critical acclaim and Grammy Awards for Best Country Album and Best Country Song (“Merry Go ’Round”). She also took home CMA Awards for New Artist of the Year and Song of the Year (“Follow Your Arrow”), and an ACM Award for Album of the Year. She followed that up with another Billboard chart-topping effort called Pageant Material.
These solidified her reputation, in the words of one reviewer, “as a serious, smart-assed [woman] songwriter in a masculine musical lineage.” Unfortunately, her strong opinions and millennial sensibilities put her outside the mainstream of Nashville and country radio, described by another commentator as ” the kind of place where women’s contributions are referred to by radio consultants as “tomatoes in a salad” where the men are lettuce.”
There is a country core to the music on this album. Musgraves sings about Texas, horses, and cowboys driving Silverados, with complementary banjo parts and the occasional twang. But these are expertly embedded along with echoes of acoustic Neil Young, Sade, the Bee Gees, psychedelic pop, 80s synth music, and Beck into an seemingly effortless blend as she makes decades of pop genres her own. She has a remarkable sense of 70s and 80s melodic style, and she refers to the sonic textures of this record as “galactic country.” This is Nashville by way of Laurel Canyon with a splash of disco. Her voice is both strong and delicate, carrying understated but country-clever lyrics. Musgraves herself has said
The goal for this record was to sound great when you’re sitting there at 2:00 a.m. thinking about everything. It’s a melting pot of many different influences that have come together. I’ve always loved Sade, but I also love Dolly Parton and traditional country music. I thought there’s got to be a world where all these things can live together harmoniously – a place where futurism meets traditionalism. I still love steel guitar and banjo, but I thought it would be dope if we put that with a vocoder and explored that world.
Reviewers have noted that this album comes at a blissful, serene time in Kacey Musgraves’s life. Last year she left the road, got married, and concentrated on her personal life, and these songs exude a self-confident contentment that may indeed grow out of the season of life in which she finds herself.
One thing is clear. Kacey Musgrave is an enormous talent, and she’s not afraid to grow, adapt, and explore.
What a great, great record.
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Here are a couple of recent performances of songs from Golden Hour: