It could be falling in love, or it could be LSD. But whatever the influence, Kacey Musgraves’ latest album, “Golden Hour” is unlike anything she’s created before.
Her signature tongue-in-cheek critiques of society and small towns are replaced with softer, love-ridden melodies that touch on the beauty of the world (“Oh, What a World”) and those feelings that you can’t quite define (“Happy & Sad”).
This change doesn’t abandon the style that brought her recognition within the country scene and beyond, but it’s a form of growth and progression as an artist. She’s “coming out of (her) chrysalis,” as she sings on “Butterflies,” the first single from the album.
Many songs on the album are about her newfound love and October nuptials to country singer Ruston Kelly. In “Golden Hour,” the album’s namesake, and “Butterflies,” she reflects on the stomach-fluttering feelings of being in love. Similarly, “Velvet Elvis” is an upbeat and catchy declaration of love with lyrics that are bound to get stuck in your head for days.
But it’s not all love and light on the album. She creatively mixes in songs of introspection and sentiment among the more euphoric tracks.
“Mother,” perhaps the most emotionally driven song on the album, is less than a minute and 20 seconds, but is a powerful ballad of love and longing for generations of women. With just a piano backing her soft vocals, she sings about an LSD-induced sense of nostalgia that anyone can relate to, regardless of psychedelic use. “Rainbow,” the closing song, promises brighter days for anyone going through a tough time. It’s another beautiful piano ballad that perfectly mixes melancholy and hope.
One of the album’s most prominent themes is Musgraves’ overwhelming sense of wonder. In “Oh, What a World,” she lists all the incredible things this world has to offer, in Stevie Wonder style (in true Musgraves fashion, her trees of green are replaced with “plants that grow and open your mind”).
“Happy & Sad” struggles to find a word for the unease that comes with being perfectly happy, for fear that it will end soon. In “Slow Burn”– another song inspired by an acid trip – she sings a slow acoustic melody that gradually builds and then returns to its starting pace. She reflects on the fast-paced world and the desire to take her time with most things, whether it be a walk to the local bar or coming into her “old soul.”
Still, the album has echoes of her past style. “High Horse” showcases her unique ability to take a classic turn of phrase and create a catchy and clever song. “Why don’t you giddyup and ride straight out of this town,” she sings as an invitation for the song’s subject to take their ego down a notch. In “Space Cowboy,” she creates a whimsical play on words, singing “you can have your space, cowboy.”
“Golden Hour” reveals a different side of Musgraves – a softer, more vulnerable one – that still encompasses the long-loved traits that define her music. While a golden hour may fade, the sweet sensations and beautiful lyrics of the album will remain long past her next metamorphosis.