REVIEW: Kacey Musgraves – ‘Golden Hour’

Kacey Musgraves’ latest project has debuted at #6 this week on the Official UK Albums Chart; some achievement isn’t it? ‘Golden Hour’ was my most-anticipated album of 2018. Kacey is yet to do any wrong for me, and although she’s slightly changed direction with this new album, it continues her trend of sublime masterpieces. This time, having worked alongside Shane McAnally on the production side for ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ and ‘Pageant Material’ (two of my favourite albums of all time), she took the decision to work with Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk who have helped take the sound in a sonically different, adventurous direction.

“There were several serendipitous moments that really come to mind during the making of this whole record. One of the biggest ones was literally a cosmic event. It was literally on August 21st, which is my birthday, and there we were in the very middle of making this album and the total solar eclipse happened in Nashville, and it darkened all of Nashville. It just felt like this cosmic event that everyone was paying attention to, it kind of stopped time and cast a really beautiful light on Nashville itself on my birthday, my 29th year, which is kind of the golden hour of my young adult life and it just felt very special.”

The outer-space inspiration for the project was carried into the whole production. It’s atmospheric, ethereal and incredibly intricate, with each song taking you on an emotional journey. It’s a far cry from anything she has released in the past, but the beauty of it is the way she’s maintained the quirky, undeniably Kacey writing style. It’s so different yet so familiar at the same time; she’s blended the elements to perfection. Right from the delicate acoustic introduction to ‘Slow Burn’, you’re immersed in Kacey’s space-country world and you won’t want to come out of it. The wonderful key shifts and minor chords throughout the album create such a lovely atmospheric feel; it wraps me up in its warmth like no other album I can remember in recent memory.

‘Golden Hour’ could bring Kacey great mainstream success with the throwback electronica vibe that we hear in places; the likes of ‘Lonely Weekend’ and ‘High Horse’ are shoe-ins for the Radio 2 A-List and I defy any non-country fan to not take a shine to them. The former is a very personal one to Kacey, who wrote it about her experience of being off the road, whilst the latter is already a huge fan favourite which oozes that signature Kacey sassiness, humour and imaginative writing style. ‘High Horse’ is the most experimental track she’s ever released, with an almost BeeGees-style groove, and it’s an absolute triumph.

‘Oh What A World’ is another stunner, utilising some E.L.O-esque electronics alongside Kacey’s simply flawless vocal delivery. There’s really not much to it – the instrumentation is simple yet so effective, drawing you into that soothing headspace once again. ‘Space Cowboy’ delights in a similar fashion too; she’s absolutely nailed the ability to transport the listener to another world with just the right ingredients. That one was written with her good pals Shane McAnally and Luke Laird, and whenever these three get into a writing room together, the end product is magic. It’s a beautifully-crafted piece of art, exposing the emotions of someone coming to terms with the hurt of a break-up: “You can have your space, cowboy, I ain’t gonna fence you in”. One of the best tracks of the year.

Another one of my personal favourites is ‘Love Is A Wild Thing’, which I instantly fell in love with during her recent C2C headline performance. It’s probably the most recognisably ‘country’ track on the album with the use of acoustic guitars and a banjo, and it’s got that goose-bump factor in abundance. Kacey at her glorious best. It just feels like classic after classic and they don’t need time to grow on you; if you appreciate the craft of song writing and respect the sheer creativeness and thought that’s gone into this project, it’ll be an instant favourite.

The album closes with two softer, more reflective tracks following the energy-charged ‘High Horse’. The title track, ‘Golden Hour’, continues the dreaminess of its predecessors in a stunning depiction of a perfect romance, before the final track ‘Rainbow’ closes in style. ‘Rainbow’ is a piano ballad, written with Shane McAnally and Natalie Hemby, two of Nashville’s greatest ever song writers in my opinion, and this song only affirms that description. A message to “anyone with any kind of weight on their shoulders”, I’m sure many listeners will relate to it and it’s hard to hold back the tears.

In today’s world of country music where we hear so many run-of-the-mill, obvious attempts at radio success, artists like Kacey Musgraves are so important for the credibility of the genre. Yes, this album is a way for her to broaden her horizons, but it’s a masterclass in the art of song writing and there’s no sense of ‘selling out’ in the slightest. This kind of album doesn’t come around too often; let’s enjoy its beauty and give Kacey every bit of praise she deserves. ‘Golden Hour’ is special, and one of the albums of the century.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan