Album Review: Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

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You think you know someone. You think you’ve got them all worked out. You think you know all their little quirks and peculiarities, their mood swings and their funny little mannerisms. I thought I knew Kacey Musgraves. The sardonic one liners, the wry cynicism and sassy put downs, the kitschy country and western; a raised eyebrow and a resting bitch face. It turns out I didn’t know Kacey Musgraves at all. But then again I’m not even sure if Kacey really knew herself that well either. If Pageant Material was the album that sent Kacey up into the stratosphere, Golden Hour is the album where she finds herself all alone looking back down on earth as she floats slowly back down to it. It’s an album about falling in love, with someone else and then with herself again.

It’s not as if Kacey hasn’t written personal songs before, but on Golden Hour it feels like any pretension there ever was has been stripped away, leaving a raw and almost shockingly introspective record. It’s a record full of almost childlike wonder at the world, about being reminded that you’re alive and remembering how fragile life is. It’s about finding true happiness and the commensurate dread and fear of losing it all. It’s soaked in the sadness that comes with being genuinely happy with who you are, where you are and who you’re with. Golden Hour is sad in the same way that Rainy Days And Mondays or Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue are sad; there’s a self-assured calmness to its all. There is nothing in the slightest bit mopey about any of the songs on Golden Hour. I don’t imagine Kacey Musgraves is much of a moper though.

While Golden Hour sounds unbelievably beautiful – sparkling and shimmering its way around with a little nod to laid back seventies AOR and a wink to early eighties Easy Country – there’s a disarming simplicity to the lyrics this time around. When Pageant Material came out it was an undisputed masterpiece that compounded everything she’d begun on Same Trailer, Different Park, but two years later the Country And Western Revue that went alongside it had almost become a glittery self-parody. Kacey Musgraves was in very real danger of becoming a pastiche of Kacey Musgraves, and as glorious as that could often be, it was difficult to see where she could take it beyond that. Golden Hour probably isn’t where anyone expected Kacey to go next, and listening to this album is as much about adjusting to it for the first few listens. Expectations are annoying like that. I thought we were going to go to a party, but the album spends a lot of its time in its pyjamas, snuggled up on the sofa watching Nora Ephron movies with a mug of hot chocolate, worrying about not having many friends and missing out on things, but also kind of knowing what it needs more than anything is to be alone right now enjoying some quality Kacey Time; to be “happy and sad at the same time”.

It isn’t entirely without it’s upbeat moments. High Horse is a sassy camp country disco banger that brings to mind Barbara Mandrell and late seventies Dolly Parton, and Butterflies and Space Cowboy are both glorious, but in a way they’re just colour by numbers Kacey. Everywhere else the album sinks itself into itself and reveals a side of Kacey that she hasn’t really put out there before. It ends up being a strangely political record too, inasmuch as the world feels like a dark place right now and Kacey Musgraves is standing boldly in front of it with a posy of flowers, pleading for tenderness and understanding and love and truth. There is something incredibly subversive about something as pure and honest and forgiving as Golden Hour in such a hostile and hateful world.

Album closer Rainbow, written with Natalie Hemby and Shane Mcanally, ends up being one of the album’s highlights; it’s so perfectly formed you find it difficult to believe it isn’t a song that you’ve been listening to your whole life. It’s sweet and sad and comforting in the way that Bright Eyes or Halfway Down The Stairs are, and it sounds like Kacey Musgraves singing a deep cut from The Muppets. It’s the perfect end to a beautiful album. Golden Hour is a triumph that comes from the most unexpected of places. It’s so spaced out and positive throughout that you wonder if she didn’t write the entire album on LSD. It fills you with hope in a strangely contrary way, by reminding you that you’re nothing, just a tiny speck of matter in the universe, but that because of that anything is possible.

I often think Kacey Musgraves must have taken Buck Owens’ pledge to country music – “I shall sing no song that is not a Country song. I shall make no record that is not a Country record” – because it feels like the essence of country music is so deeply embedded in everything she does that she could make a teutonic thrash metal album and it would still end up being pretty much a country record. But despite all that, Golden Hour is an album that has pop crossover written all over it, and there’s no better pop star on the planet right now than Kacey Musgraves. All hail the new queen of country pop. Oh, what a world indeed.

  Track List
  1. Slow Burn
  2. Lonely Weekend
  3. Butterflies
  4. Oh, What A World
  5. Mother
  6. Love Is A Wild Thing
  7. Space Cowboy
  8. Happy & Sad
  9. Velvet Elvis
  10. Wonder Woman
  11. High Horse
  12. Golden Hour
  13. Rainbow


More Information

Birthday

21 August 1988


Hometown

GOLDEN, TEXAS



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About the Author

Jof

I'm a Buffy The Vampire Slayer watching Smash Hits reading militant feminist country music lover. Country music was the first music I ever fell in love with. When I was five years old all my heroes were cowboys or country singers. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash and `George Hamilton IV, Crystal Gayle and Marty Robbins. As I grew up I fell in love with other things, but I never forgot country music. My first love. And as I get older I find myself where I began all those years ago. Listening to George Hamilton IV and dreaming of being a country singer. We can still be friends if you don't like Waylon Jennings, but we'll never truly understand each other.