Country music singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves has positioned herself perfectly. Not necessarily in the seat where most people will learn her name, but up on a hill where she can successfully do whatever she damn well pleases.
She knows her fourth album Golden Hour probably won’t have (m)any songs played on contemporary country radio stations, but that’s not what it’s here for. It’s here to tell us the girl from Golden, Texas is a grown woman now. It’s also going to help us reimagine every dream we’ve ever had, because Musgraves is dreaming in colors most of us have never seen.
When promoting the album, she used words like “trippy” and “groovy” to explain its vibe. It’s clear the 29-year-old prides herself on her old soul, which continues to sing beautifully through her music. Somehow, her trippiest album is also her most thematically mature. Her dreamy voice isn’t flighty, but focused. And the lyrics, while purposeful, don’t take themselves too seriously.
In “High Horse,” the third single she released behind “Space Cowboy” and “Butterflies,” Musgraves somehow turns the art of eye rolling into a song. She sings:
Oh, I bet you think you’re John Wayne
Showing up and shooting down everybody
You’re classic in the wrong way
And we all know the end of the story
While she’s basically reminding someone that their shit does, in fact, stink, she remains in total control. (“It’s not cool to lose your cool, loser,” she’d probably say.)
And the lyric video will make you nostalgic for your elementary school bully:
Oh, you thought that was trippy? That’s not even the song she wrote on LSD.
She’s like a 2018 Willie Nelson but will never be as celebrated because country music doesn’t really like it when women talk about drug use the way men do.
The track in question, “Mother,” is one minute and 18 seconds of unexplainable emotion to remind you that you need to call your mom right now.
A fault of the album, however, is that there isn’t really a track you can dance to; they’re all pretty slow. Luckily, there’s “Velvet Elvis,” which is the most upbeat next to “High Horse.” It isn’t exactly a bop, but the beat is solid enough to dizzily (or drunkenly) swing around to. Oh, and if fabric puns get you going here’s a teaser:
I knew it as soon as I felt it
You’re my Velvet Elvis
Perhaps it’s strategic that a handful of Golden Hour‘s tracks are vague enough they can be applied to an array of personal experiences and situations.
But when Musgraves makes a “it’s complicated” relationship song, it feels like she’s singing directly at you. If you grew up in a church with a preacher who held eye contact longer than one beat, you know the feeling.
There’s also “Wonder Woman”, the song for anyone who has ever felt like they were putting more effort into a relationship than their partner. By the way, if you think this doesn’t apply to you, you’re lying to yourself.
The album ends strong with “Golden Hour” and “Rainbow,” two songs that scream “riding off into the sunset as the credits roll.” They’re both different sides of the same coin, but not in a repetitive way.
The chorus for the title song explains:
You’ve set my world on fire, yeah
And I know, I know everything’s gonna be alright
You’re my golden hour, the color of my sky
And in “Rainbow,” the bridge leading up to the chorus reminds:
Everything is alright now…
Let go of your umbrella
‘Cause, darlin’, I’m just tryin’ to tell ya
That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head
In the title track “Golden Hour” she’s reminding herself that everything will work out, and through “Rainbow” she’s trying to convince the same thing to you.
Musgraves has repeatedly proven she can carve out a space in country music doing exactly what she wants, but this is the first album we’ve seen her allow her artistic expression to grow in tandem with her personhood.
Golden Hour is metaphorical sunset of sorts, but it doesn’t signify the end. Just that the colors are about to change.