Musgraves promised a different sound and feel for her third studio album, Golden Hour. When she released her teaser tracks Butterflies, High Horse Rainbow, it felt that she might be moving in a slightly different direction but Golden Hour proves how an artist such as Musgraves can move on and grow whilst still retaining the sparkle that has helped to make her a multi-Grammy award winning artist. Many of Musgraves more ‘country music’ fans appeared concerned by the slight shift in direction but trust me when I say that Golden Hour is Musgraves finest album to date and shows how she has matured and played with different sounds whilst still keeping that witty, intelligent, and insightful lyrical style that we have all grown to love. The album sleeve promises the listener the chance to view multiple sides to Musgraves personality and she certainly delivers on that.
The album opens with Slow Burn. It’s a beautiful, soft, melodic way to start the album and immediately invites the listener into personal parts of Musgraves life. The music feels whistful and nostalgic and less ‘twangy’ than her usual style. The music has a euphoric feel to it, building you up with the lyrics and softening when she ponders where she still has to grow in life. ‘I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be alright, If we burn it down and it takes all night, It’s a slow burn, yeah.’
The second track is Lonely Weekend. In this song Musgraves speeds the tempo up slightly with a song that explores multiple sides of being lonely. This song really sings to me; it’s soft and open and starts to explore the vulnerability that this album really celebrates. She captures that feeling of growing up and being indecisive and slightly lost. Musically this steps away from the banjo sound and delves into a world with more electronic sounds, but this results in the song feeling fresh and open.
Butterflies is a happy love song. You can feel the genuine love in this song and the love she describes is one we all strive for. ‘Now you’re lifting me up, ‘stead of holding me down, Stealing my heart ‘stead of stealing my crown’. Musically it’s uplifting and re-introduces more of the classic country sounds such as steel guitar and banjo. It plays homage to classic country love songs whilst giving it a fresh, contemporary spin.
The next track is Oh, What A World. For many, lyrically, the content of this song is vastly different from the smart, sarcastic, and witty Musgraves we have all come to know. This song sings of positivity and light in a time which Musgraves herself describes as being ‘more complicated than ever and filled with so much darkness’. This song has a more retro feel to it, exploring synthetic vocals to give it an other worldly feel.
Next up is Mother. At only one minute 18 seconds long, Musgraves simply and beautifully details the relationship between a daughter and mother even when it transcends time and space. I write this as a woman who doesn’t live all that close to her mother but the quiet, vulnerable feel to this song brought a tear to my eye on my first listen. And well, several times after that. I would love to see where this song could go to, it is full of promise in its calm and gentle nature, but it is a beautiful, simple song nonetheless.
Track six is Love Is A Wild Thing. In this song, the banjo and steel guitar feature much more heavily and it feels a bit more like the sound we would be expecting from this artist. This song feels like a continuation of Butterflies in it’s lyrical content as it is a pure and simple celebration of love. ‘Coming through the melody when the night bird sings, Love is a wild thing’.
Space Cowboy has Musgraves back to her witty best. The echoey feel of the song makes it feel much more vulnerable and you can almost feel her letting go of her past. The music supports the lyrical fresh start and Musgraves lets the listener in along for the ride. It is soft but defiant and strong song.
Following on is Happy & Sad. Musically this feels like a change on the album; it changes to a stronger beat and leaves behind some of the softer sounds felt on earlier tracks on the album. ‘Is there a word for the way that i’m feeling tonight? Happy and sad at the same time, You got me smiling with tears in my eyes’. Happy & Sad continues exploring a vulnerable side to Musgraves where she fears being so happy and the inevitable come down from happiness.
Track nine is Velvet Elvis. This song immediately feels more upbeat and joyful with a strong percussion beat. On this track Musgraves moves away from her internal conflict and explores the more lustful side of love. This is definitely the fun , lighthearted track on the album.
Wonder Woman provides an insight into the difficulty behind being a strong woman. The opening feels like it will explore the more electronic feel of the album but it effortlessly slides into soft banjos. The chorus will get stuck in your head whilst Musgraves explores the more human side of superheroes. ‘Bet all that gold gets heavy weighin’ on her, I wonder if it’s scary, always tryin’ not to get hurt’.
Next up is ‘High Horse’, which is one of the first tracks Musgraves released after announcing the album. I can see why people were fearful that she left behind her country roots with this disco-sounding track, but lyrically it really shows the smart, witty side to Musgraves. ‘You’re classic in the wrong way, And we all know the end of the story’. The fun, upbeat, playful music lightens up the dark lyrics and results in a clever song bursting with attitude. Definitely a track you’ll want to listen to after a bad day at work.
The penultimate song is the title track Golden Hour. This song has a retro feel to it and it feels more relaxed. I would say it’s probably my least favourite song the album, but that’s only because it is an album full of standouts. ‘Golden Hour’ is a chilled out, romantic, hopeful love song.
The final track on the album is Rainbow. This song continues the romantic, hopeful feel of the album with Musgraves singing against a beautiful backdrop provided by a piano. This song leaves the album on a positive, powerful note and sums up the 13 tracks beautifully.
1. Slow Burn
2. Lonely Weekend
4. Oh, What A World
6. Love Is A Wild Thing
7. Space Cowboy
8. Happy & Sad
9. Velvet Elvis
10. Wonder Woman
11. High Horse
12. Golden Hour
This album feels like a re-birth; not in the sense that she leaves her old musical self behind, because she doesn’t, but that she’s learnt and grown and developed and it results in a beautiful, refreshing sound. Musgraves carefully blends together banjos, electronic sounds, and wistful, witty lyrics. This album does have a different feel to ‘Pageant Material’ and ‘Same Trailer, Different Park’, but Musgraves doesn’t leave behind that girl completely. ‘Golden Hour’ feels like their more positive, hopeful, and romantic older cousin who has a real sense of the woman she is. Country music is a genre filled with strong, intelligent, and powerful women, but unfortunately they don’t always get the recognition they deserve. However, in ‘Golden Hour’ Musgraves celebrates and explores what it is to be a young woman in a vulnerable and open way. It may only be April, but to me this already feels like a contender for album of the year.
Lonely Weekend, Mother, High Horse, Happy & Sad
Six Shooter Rating
9.5 out of 10