Review Summary: Beauty through simplicity
Last Sunday, my wife and I were returning from a long road trip across our county when we came upon a gorgeous stone bridge. The sun was reflecting upon the stream passing underneath it, giving it the appearance of a thousand miniature diamonds all shimmering at once. It was one of those moments when we looked at each other and sort of just went with it, so I turned down the old path and followed it up the Pennsylvania countryside through areas that I’ve never before ventured. Golden Hour
was already spinning in my car’s CD player, and as we weaved about the curvy back roads - farms and fields on either side of us – the combination of authentic rural beauty and Kacey Musgraves' musical backdrop intertwined into one of those moments
. I don’t know precisely how to describe the sensation, but I know everyone experiences it. Your worries fade away. Your senses are heightened, and you notice things you normally wouldn’t: the unique shade of hazel that your wife’s eyes become with the sunset reflecting off of them; how something as simple as a breeze through an open car window can make you feel more liberated than you’ve been in months; an appreciation for the slowness of country life – where everything isn’t done in a nanosecond, by way of a tablet at the tip of your fingers. The gentle sway of Kacey Musgraves’ third album somehow encompassed all of these feelings, blurring the line between music and present reality…taking an otherwise insignificant memory and making it timeless.
This record is a lot like a pleasure drive through the countryside on a spring afternoon. It’s recognizing the pressures that modern society places on people and telling those same people to slow down and witness the beauty that surrounds them; beauty typically ignored as we rush from A to Z in order to meet our deadlines. Musgraves’ warmth spreads through each track like someone who is trying to suppress a smile but can’t. Each song’s atmosphere possesses a wistful forlornness, but also this sly, knowing
optimism that paints each verse a silver lining. There’s “Lonely Weekend”, which recounts the ever-common “fear of missing out” before ending things on a note of self-empowerment (‘Even if you got somebody on your mind / It's alright to be alone sometimes’
). The album’s best chorus and overall melody strikes less than a minute into “Happy & Sad”, where Musgraves eloquently describes the conflict of feeling “so high” yet knows that happiness is fleeting, and that it eventually must – and will
– come to an end. The longer the album winds on, the more it picks up steam. What begins at a very easygoing pace adds momentum one track at a time, until you end up with a stretch like “Velvet Elvis” through “High Horse” – where Kacey’s pop gleam is more evident than at any other juncture. It’s a waste of time to recount highlights though, because this whole album is essential, and to skip from one point to the next without experiencing the journey along the way is sort of the opposite of how Golden Hour
deserves to be listened to.
I’m not one to wax poetic about country music, but then again it’s rare that it inspires me as much as this record does. I love how Musgraves is in absolutely no rush. The music just seems to flow effortlessly off the page, and it sounds infinitely more genuine for it. The progressions come across as totally organic, as if you were sitting on Kacey’s back porch one morning and she strolled out with a guitar strapped over her shoulder and said “hey, guess what I just wrote.” It’s the spontaneity of driving down an unfamiliar road, if only to witness the natural beauty that rustles in the breeze just beyond the city limits. It’s the kind of album that makes me want to lay down in the grass on a cloudless afternoon and just stare into the infinite blue. Golden Hour
is an exquisitely beautiful break from reality. I can be stuck in miles of backed traffic and a cloud of exhaust, but if I close my eyes to “Butterflies” or “Rainbow”, I can still feel the wind blowing through my hair on that Sunday afternoon, or hear the water rushing under that old stone bridge. That’s a moment that, thanks to Golden Hour
, will always mean something to me…and it’s a memory I’m not quite done escaping to.