Review: Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at 4:50 PM
Review: Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour by Livia Homerski

★★★★☆

You know that feeling with the clouds of despair pass and the sun starts to shine on your life again? This feeling is translated into the pop-country album “Golden Hour” released by Kacey Musgraves on March 30.

The songs are arranged so that Musgrave’s high vocal range is mastered a few notches louder than the instrumentation, which serves more as a backup material.

Although it could be argued that this album is more pop than country, it has a lot of country accent, Musgrave’s voice for example, carries a lot of country tones and much of the instrumentation is touched with country accents, such as acoustic guitar, slide guitar, and banjo.

“Slowburn” takes an old-country outlaw chord progression and combines it with a modern pop hook of “I'm alright with a slow burn. Taking my time, let the world turn.” The plucked banjo and grooving bass takes more post-chorus prominence. The bridge blows the picture up and does some genre bending: the song expands into an exploratory and spacey psychedelic country.

Continuing in the classic country songwriting vein, Musgraves pens an emotional piano ballad for her momma, called “Mother.” It’s about growing up but still being able to run to back to your momma for support when the world is on your shoulders. On one hand, I’m thankful for the brevity because my soft heart couldn’t take much more, but the song seems like it has so much more to say.

The breakup anthem “Space Cowboy” was one of two singles released to promote “Golden Hour” along with love song “Butterflies.” The seventh track of the album lassos western imagery and metaphors while wrangling feelings of loss and acceptance. The key change in the middle of the song is accented by overdriven slide guitars and xylophone.

“High Horse” is a swinging country disco about that one party pooper who has to assert his ego and prove himself as a cool guy. It’s definitely one of the more upbeat songs of “Golden Hour” and contains some of Musgrave’s signature sass in the lyrics like, “Darling, you take the high horse and I'll take the high road. If you’re too good for us, you’ll be good riding solo.”

The moniker of the album, “Golden Hour” has a strong bass groove and snappy, quiet snare that plays with Musgraves’s smooth, airy vocals. The breathiness and restraint shown in her delivery comes across as relaxed and suits the floatiness of the song. This track is warm and light both in tone and in the structure, it floats between two verses, a brief bridge and then a refrain. The slide guitars, while having a brief moment before the refrain are a mellow echo of the melody and is reminiscent of punchy old country slide riffs.

Despite the enormous hype surrounding the release of “Golden Hour,” there are some aspects of the album that needs to be considered before hailing this record as a new classic. For example, there are many times where the songwriting becomes cliche’d, such as on tracks “Love is a Wild Thing,” where the comparison of love “Running like a river trying to find the ocean, flowers in the concrete” is something that we’ve all heard before.

Perhaps the simplicity and straightforwardness is more of a symptom of pop writing, but when compared to country greats such as Mary Chapin Carpenter or Willie Nelson, Musgraves’s work just doesn’t carry the same emotional weight. For those who have never been exposed to the classics of country, “Golden Hour” can serve as the accessible crossover that spans the emotional gap between country and pop.

Despite the pop overtones leading her out of the trailer park, instruments such as acoustic and slide guitar and Musgrave’s signature twang points her arrow into a brighter, lovelier world.

Stream "Golden Hour" below:

Livia Homerski can be reached at musics.spectator@gmail.com.

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