In the liner notes of Kacey Musgraves’ third album, “Golden Hour,” the country songstress writes: “There are certain junctures that you can’t think your way through – you just have to feel. I found myself at one making this album.”
The singer-songwriter is known for her biting social commentary and witty lyrics prevalent in her first two albums, “Same Trailer Different Park” and “Pageant Material.” On her latest album, she still has something to say, but you can hear her feeling it much more.
On “Slow Burn,” the opening track from “Golden Hour,” Musgraves immediately sets the mood for what is to come during the chorus: “I’m alright with a slow burn/taking my time, let the world turn.”
The track opens up with the soft strumming of a guitar enveloping Musgraves’ reverb-heavy vocals. As the song progresses, more string instruments are lightly introduced here and there, while atmospheric and airy synthesizers slowly creep in alongside low-key percussion. It’s a change of pace for the country singer, whose previous works pulled heavily from Americana music, but it’s a change that feels organic.
With the focus on more retrospective lyrics, the lush soundscape featuring hazy synths and vocoders lend themselves well to the world she creates in her music.
That is not to say that Musgraves’ lyrics are lacking the wit heard on her previous works.
“Space Cowboy,” one of the standouts from the album, was co-written with Shane McAnally, who previously collaborated with Musgraves on her Grammy Award-winning debut single, “Merry Go ‘Round.” The lyrics are just as strong and memorable as her earlier works, yet its melancholy tone is new territory for the singer while still feeling familiar.
Musgraves has a special talent of turning something ordinary and mundane into a profound, other-worldly revelation. Or, maybe, she’s just taking the time to appreciate what is often overlooked.
At just 45 minutes, the album is an exploration in finding the right words to describe a feeling, and in finding the right sounds to complement them.
However, that doesn’t mean that the work is lacking in light-hearted moments.
“High Horse” is the country-disco hybrid that Daft Punk probably wishes was theirs. It is a savage read of someone who thinks they’re “cooler than everybody else,” set to country guitars riding a funky bassline made for the club. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, yet it ends up being perfect.
Other tracks like “Oh What A World” open with a vocoder and ethereal synths, something totally unexpected from Musgraves.
But the most earnest and surprising song might be the shortest one on the album. “Mother” is stripped back and features only Musgraves’ vocals over a piano track. It discusses the longing she has for her mother, and it is not what you would expect from, according to Musgraves, a song written on a summer night after taking LSD. But this album is full of what one wouldn’t expect.
“Golden Hour” is a slow burn that starts off strong and gets hotter the deeper you get into the album. It’s the product of when an artist has a true moment of clarity and reflection and is able to get it right.