#270: Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves
Here’s how I always react to country albums: I resist it the first time, then the second time it hits me like a truck, then the third time I fall in love with it, then I learn half of the songs on the guitar. I’m a country music fan, apparently. I genuinely had no idea.
I resisted Golden Hour hard. I mean, the RS blurb calls it “millennial pop” and “yacht country,” two phrases that make me break out in hives. “Pleasant but boring” was what I wrote in my notes the first time. But of course, I eventually found my way in.
Maybe it was learning that this was partially recorded above Sheryl Crowe’s horse stable. More likely it was all the acid trips she took while making this record. And she was super open about it. In Marie Claire, she said psychedelics have “brought me closer to our planet and to humanity.” In Rolling Stone, she’s sure to add, “I’m not going to tell anybody to run out and do anything that wouldn’t be suitable for their mind or their lifestyle, but it did have positive effects for me.”
(For the record, that’s much better than Damon Albarn of Blur, who all but said “Heroin is great and you should do it.”)
“Slow Burn” and “Mother” were both written while under the influence of psychedelics, which surprised me a lot because these aren’t the most psychedelic songs on the record by a long shot. I normally don’t like This-Is-Who-I-Am songs, but “Slow Burn” is so beautiful and self-possessed that I didn’t mind it. “Mother” made me cry, probably because I listened to it the day before Mother’s Day. I’m just sitting here/Thinkin’ ‘bout the time that’s slipping/And missing my mother. Very sweet for an acid song.
There’s a lot of colorful, elegant imagery that wouldn’t be out of place on a Grateful Dead tapestry. The music video for “Butterflies” is pretty, with a neon-pastel color palette that still isn’t nearly as vivid as the lyrics that conjure up crowns and wings and chrysalises. “Oh, What a World” SOUNDS like a song about acid, her floaty voice singing about Plants that grow and open your mind over a banjo.
Musgraves works like a painter and splashes color everywhere. Title song “Golden Hour” glows with streaks of yellow, and “Rainbow” is a colorful piano ballad that I hated at first because it was in that stupid g**damn commercial about the bookstore. At first when I heard it it made me groan, because all I could hear was that little girl squeaking “You can’t have a bookstore without the books!” But then, after a few listens, I was able to appreciate it as a beautiful, classic piano ballad about being so optimistic that you’re blinded by colors, an undoubtedly lovely philosophy.
Even though RS calling this record “millennial pop” turned me off, I understood what they meant after listening a few more times. When “Lonely Weekend” came on, I could have sworn I was listening to Taylor Swift. She’s like T. Swift’s natural predecessor, singing about staring at her cell phone and having a million things to do but not doing a single one. “Love Is a Wild Thing” and “Wonder Woman” both could have been lifted from T. Swift’s early discography. “Space Cowboy” even reminded me a little of the Dixie Chicks, with the soulful harmonies and the fun wordplay.
Musgraves is so delightfully contemporary that when she gives tribute to people that came before her, it’s super sweet. “Velvet Elvis” is almost as good an Elvis tribute as Gillian Welch’s, and “High Horse” is a freaking disco song that calls out John Wayne in the first line.
The one thing I wasn’t expecting when I started to listen to the RS Top 500 Album List was a psychedelic-positive country record that made me tear up, several times. Around every corner, there’s a surprise. What’s next? Who’s next?
Least Favorite: The title “Happy & Sad” made me irritated, but the line I’m the kinda person who starts getting kinda nervous made me angry.