Review Summary: One of the greatest and most important albums to come out in a very long time.
As 2018 draws to a close, I think there's an interesting dichotomy between how most people look back upon the year and the album most visceral and paramount to its three hundred and sixty five day march towards where we are right now. There's arguably never been as politically contentious a society as what exists today. Social, economic, and civil divides continue to fester. People of modest means are skeptical, and frankly fearful
of what the future holds. Kacey Musgraves' third and latest opus, Golden Hour
, reminds us of the excess of significance we too often overapply to these societal ills, prevalent and noteworthy as they are, and how vital it is to just slow down
Kacey Musgraves' career began with material that could marry humor with melancholy, playfully nudge you to "hoe your own row" and even get down in the mud with some social issues. The consequence, if you could ever classify it as such, was limited chart success and becoming an outsider on country radio, but that's where the beauty of Golden Hour
shines countless times on this record. This is an album that refuses to sacrifice its identity for the sake of a few more spins. It's concrete, tangible and real.
"Slow Burn" opens the record with the first taste of its visuals
. The lyrics paint the picture of a slow drive through all that Mother Nature has to offer. As the passages twist and turn, Musgraves expresses her desire to put the world on pause and be present with her husband. "Good in a glass, good on green, good when you're putting your hands all over me," she gracefully proclaims to him. "We should take a walk and look at all the flowers," she continues. Key-driven melodies peacefully crash onto the song's choruses as an acoustic guitar carries the bulk of the instrumental.
"Lonely Weekend" sees Musgraves not worrying about what she might miss on a night out with her friends. The overarching message is so much more important than the song's inoffensively upbeat lyrics make it out to be. "It's alright to be alone sometimes," she cautions the listener, encouraging them to focus on self love and mental and emotional health. "Butterflies" is arguably the best track on Golden Hour
for a variety of reasons, mainly for how important a role it plays admist the album's windng peaks and valleys.
Kacey isolates her husband again, this time to express gratitude for the positive change in her life that meeting him helped to cultivate. "I was hiding in doubt till you brought me out of my chrysalis" she thankfully tells him. One of the most beautifully sung and written songs I've encountered in some time, the graceful synth washes coincide perfectly with a shimmering steel guitar. Like many others on this record, "Butterflies" seems sorely out of place with what's on the radio today, but Musgraves marries the different elements in masterful form.
"Oh, What a World" opens by implementing a talkbox and while it might be even more sorely out of step with current trends, Musgraves herself performs the song well enough that the listener can't argue with it. It's another chance Musgraves takes on Golden Hour
to show appreciation for the landscape around her, and just how grateful she is for inhabiting it. The transitional track "Mother" sees a homesick Musgraves yearning to see her mother who lives a ways away. While it may stop the pacing of the record just a tad, it's yet another time on this record that Kacey bares her soul out for the listener, and something that vulernable and authentic is very satisfying to see.
"Love is a Wild Thing" is more traditional in its sonic identity, as a banjo carries the verses. "Space Cowboy" sees Musgraves hesitant to say goodbye to a nameless companion who she won't force to stay. "You can have your space, cowboy," she proclaims, "there ain't room for both of us in this town." On "Happy and Sad". Musgraves sings of the feeling of perplexity and mixed emotions. "I'm the kinda person who starts getting kinda nervous when I'm having the time of my life," she confesses. Fear and uncertainty can carry a lot of weight and Musgraves puts that on display, as if to extend an olive branch to the listener and remind them they're not alone.
"High Horse" is one of a few actual forays into full pop territory found on Golden Hour
. But it works. This is a chance for the listener to just have fun and take a break from the emotional heaviness of the previous tracks. The album's title track picks things back up, however, to find Musgraves once again expressing gratefulness to her husband. She compares the negative sensation she used to get from watching the sun set with the joy and euphoria she now feels when she looks into his eyes. It's impossible to be jealous of them, too. The love Musgraves pours out on this record is one you want to root for and hope it lasts forever.
"Rainbow" is appropriate in its role as the album closer. Driven by a soft piano-led melody, Musgraves relies again on the aesthetic. "It ain't rainin' anymore," Musgraves tells the listsner, punctuating the tone and theme of the album with just a few simple lines. Golden Hour
is a collection of moments, and Musgraves pours her heart and soul into each one. It's a glimpse at the disconnect between where Musgraves was and is in her life right now. And these moments, in almost biblical fashion, can take on completely different meanings, regardless of the distance between them. This turns Golden Hour
into a vehicle of inspiration for the listener, to appreciate the beauty around them, the blessings they have, and to not worry about material wants or a couple Friday nights out missed.
For Kacey Musgraves herself, it was a slew of moments that brought about this masterful creation. In her 29th year, Musgraves got to witness a solar eclipse that fell on her birthday and tie the knot with the man she truly loves with all her heart. And there it was; her golden hour
, coming and going in different moments and different sensations. And so began the process of adapting these sudden epiphanies into song. The end result is one of the greatest country music albums of all time, and one that is so vital and enigmatic to the year it was released in. Your mileage may vary, but Golden Hour
has left this listener quite humbled, and even optimistic for what the future holds.