Since the release of her 2013 major label debut Same Trailer Different Park, singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves has come a long way. In 2014 she picked up two Grammy Awards – Best Country Song for Merry Go ‘Round and Best Country Album for Same Trailer Different Park – and she’s built a solid international following through her relentless touring ethic. 2015 follow-up Pageant Material built on the critical acclaim Musgraves enjoyed with her previous record and in 2016 she released festive collection A Very Kacey Christmas. Last month Musgraves headlined C2C: Country to Country 2018 and off the back of that she launched her new album Golden Hour.
Having spent her first two studio albums observing other people, for the most part, Musgraves turns the lens on herself for Golden Hour. Not only is this album lyrically very different for Musgraves, it’s also her most adventurous body of work musically. Ahead of the album’s arrival Musgraves released three very different tracks from the record – Butterflies, Space Cowboy and High Horse. The three songs serve well as an indication as to the variety fans can expect from the record. Butterflies is a heart-on-your-sleeve romantic ballad, Space Cowboy is dramatic piano-led break-up song and High Horse is a 70s-influenced disco track, of the like Musgraves has never recorded before.
Contrary to popular belief Golden Hour isn’t an attempt by Musgraves to become a pop star. You can hear at the heart of every track the honesty and storytelling that’s the very essence of Country music. Just one listen to opening number Slow Burn, an acoustic-ballad, shows that Musgraves has definitely not ditched her roots or turned her back on a genre that runs through her very soul. Golden Hour is an evolution for Musgraves where she pushes herself out of her comfort zone, challenges herself to do something new and without a doubt pulls it off admirably.
Musgraves is convincing regardless of what sound she creates. Whether it’s the breezy Lonely Weekend, the vocoder-filled Oh, What a World or the wistful Happy & Sad, you can hear the conviction in her voice. These are songs crafted with expertise and passion, and they mark Musgraves out as one of the most exciting talents in any genre of music. The short but personal Mother, inspired by Musgraves’ mother and grandmother and created during an LSD trip, is a beautiful moment that catches you off-guard.
Elsewhere on the record Love is a Wild Thing has a memorable and catchy melody, title track Golden Hour is a hazy ode to love and the subtle beat of Wonder Woman navigates the murky waters of trying to get a relationship on the right track. Album closer Rainbow, a song Musgraves wrote years ago, is a beautiful piano ballad about self-belief and self-empowerment carrying a similar sentiment to fan favourite single Follow Your Arrow.
The two best moments on the record come on Velvet Elvis and High Horse. The former has a punchy beat and a catchy singalong chorus while the latter is the disco track you never knew you needed from Musgraves. Both songs are far removed from what we’ve heard from her before but they work well and are utterly addictive.
There isn’t a bad song on Golden Hour and despite us only having just entered April, it’s definitely a contender for album of the year. Musgraves has upped her game with Golden Hour and this is the album that could well become her signature body of work. She challenges the status quo and pushes Country music past its rather rigid boundaries. As creatively fulfilling as the album must have been for Musgraves, it’s endlessly rewarding for listeners and it’s an absolute triumph.
Track listing: 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 Record label: Decca Release date: 30th March 2018