Golden Hour shimmers with the vivid colors that arrive when the sun starts to set, when familiar scenes achieve a sense of hyperreality. Such heightened emotions are a new aesthetic for Kacey Musgraves, who previously enlivened traditional country with her sly synthesis of old sounds and witty progressive lyrics. Musgraves barely winks on Golden Hour, disguising her newfound emotional candidness behind a gorgeous veneer of harmonies and synthesizers. Sonically, the album doesn't scan country. Whenever Musgraves makes an explicit nod to the past, she acknowledges the smooth grooves of yacht rock and the glitterball pulse of disco, styles that only have a tangential relationship with country but feel more welcome in a landscape where R&B and hip-hop are embraced by some of the biggest stars in country. Musgraves doesn't mine this vein, preferring a soft, blissed-out vibe to skittering rhythms and fleet rhymes. At their core, the songs on Golden Hour -- which Musgraves largely co-wrote with her co-producers Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian, but also featuring Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird, and Shane McAnally, among other collaborators -- don't play with form: they are classic country constructions, simply given productions that ignore country conventions from either the present or the past. This is a fearless move, but Golden Hour is hardly confrontational. It's quietly confident, unfurling at its own leisurely gait, swaying between casual confessions and songs about faded love. The very sound of Golden Hour is seductive -- it's warm and enveloping, pitched halfway between heartbreak and healing -- but the album lingers in the mind because the songs are so sharp, buttressed by long, loping melodies and Musgraves' affectless soul-baring. Previously, her cleverness was her strong suit, but on Golden Hour she benefits from being direct, especially since this frankness anchors an album that sounds sweetly blissful, turning this record into the best kind of comfort: it soothes but is also a source of sustenance.
Golden Hour Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine