It takes a special album from a special artist for members of the Belles and Gals team to get together and write an ‘in the round’ review, and Kacey Musgraves and her new album ‘Golden Hour’ tick both of these boxes. Our ‘in the round’ reviews see members of the team select a favourite song each and describe why.
Wonder Woman – Liam Lewis (twitter.com/liam0324)
‘Wonder Woman’ kicks off with a familiar and yet modern country sound, with a very simple instrumental accompaniment to Kacey’s great voice. As to be expected from Kacey Musgraves, the lyrics are brilliant. Lines such as “I can show you strong, I can fight for you. I can try to move mountains if you want me to.” And “I don’t need a Superman to win my lovin’, ‘Cause, baby, I ain’t Wonder Woman” cleverly paired with Kacey’s voice make for an incredibly memorable and radio worthy track. Crossing the lines of traditional country and pop, this song is but a small representation of Kacey’s attempt to aim for the mainstream radio masses. Lyrically brilliant and sonically sound, this is definitely my contender for song and album of the year.
Space Cowboy – Megan Roberts (twitter.com/retrocatswift)
Space Cowboy is a prime example of how traditional country ideology meets modern sound.
I originally pictured this song to be lighthearted and upbeat upon reading the title, but I was proved wrong – it was so much more than that. This tune is raw, bittersweet, and differentiates emotively compared to fellow tracks onGolden Hour. Kacey refers to her significant other as a Cowboy, who she believes wants to be set free. It’s a song about facing the reality of a broken relationship. “I know my place, and it ain’t with you // Sunsets fade, and love does too” paints the track as a white flag surrender, an expression of vulnerability that will speak to her fans. Definitely a favourite of mine on this album.
Rainbow – Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)
The song I have chosen is the album’s final track, the beautiful ballad, “ Rainbow”, apparently written several years ago by Kacey, Shane McAnally, Natalie Hemby. She actually showcased it on her last UK tour so it’s obviously one that’s close to her heart and it was her grandmother’s favourite too, performed at her funeral. It really wouldn’t have sat right on Kacey’s previous releases but this dreamy lullaby with its upbeat message is the perfect way to close “ Golden Hour”……. I know it’s common to listen to albums in shuffle mode but I think the track order is pretty important! The arrangement is very simple both instrumentally and vocally compared to most here, with Kacey singing to a piano accompaniment ( mostly just chords in fact ) which highlights her pure and very sweet voice and the gorgeous lyrics.
It is seemingly addressed to a specific person, though Kacey has said it is dedicated to “ anyone who has any kind of weight on their shoulders”. The metaphor used in the song for that situation is a storm, the addressee being so used to battling to keep their head above the “ rising waterline” they don’t realise that the storm is actually over and the “ sky is finally open, the rain and wind’s stopped blown’ “ What Kacey can see, and always has done, is that there is a rainbow above them and if only they could realise that then they could move on to a better place…..” tie up your boat. take off your coat and take a look around” she urges, “ everything is alright now”. Part of the inspiration for this one came from reading her horoscope one day, which said “ You don’t know it Leo, but there’s a rainbow hanging over your head”.
And of course, a rainbow is well known for being a symbol of the LGBT community which Kacey supports so strongly.
Mother – Shannon Hynes (twitter.com/s_hynesmusic)
‘Mother’ may be the shortest song on ‘Golden’ at 1m18s, but it absolutely can’t be overlooked. It is one of the most emotional fragments of the album, Kacey’s sensitive and sentimental vocal serenades us with lyrics that so many can connect with. In this instance, it’s a mother-daughter relationship. Partnered with the simple chordal structure of the piano, there’s no dressing up of anything, including the lyrics. In fact the song is very journal like, ‘hope my tears don’t freak you out, they’re just kinda coming out’. With this song, I had such a huge sense of wanting more, the melody flows so beautifully and is the kind that is so easy to listen to. I also feel like ‘Mother’ enlightens the need for albums. This song you could say is kind of a hidden song, as in, you probably wouldn’t hear it if you didn’t listen to the album in it’s entirety. You would not want to miss out on a diamond of a song like ‘Mother’. I can’t get over how beautiful the song is and personally, how much I can empathise with it. That’s something Kacey Musgraves has got spot on, almost everyone can understand and relate to every single word.
Slow Burn – Emily Weall (twitter.com/EmilyJ_Weall)
If you ever release an album, you need to open with your own slow burner. This opener sets the sound for the rest of the record perfectly, it’s a chill listen that has the ability to transfer you to a completely different time and place.
It’s spaced out and ethereal without being over the top and going too far yet it’s enough to make it clear that this ain’t no Pageant Material by a long shot.
It’s clear that this track is about slowing down and not taking things as being deeper than they are. And it has come at an absolutely perfect time for a lot of people, from millennials that are rushing through life, to the generations before us who are looking back on their lives.
It’s because of this that will always have me coming back to this song, the rest of them are amazing don’t get me wrong, but this one really speaks to me.
High Horse – Mike Ross (twitter.com/rossmike15)
Given the opportunity to choose which song to review off of this masterpiece, I jumped at this one. First, let’s just get it out of the way – country music “traditionalists” are going to have a field day ripping this one to shreds…and they’re right. If you are hoping for the classic sound of Kacey’s first two albums (Same Trailer, Different Park and Pageant Material), this song is going to knock you sideways. With its ‘70’s electro/disco backbeat, High Horse will NEVER show up on a country music playlist, regardless of the John Wayne and horse references (as if radio stations have ever given Kacey a fair shake, so to hell with them, anyhow).
Lyrically, High Horse is a brilliant cross between Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and Mac Davis’s “Hard to be Humble,” with Kacey’s straightforward, no nonsense approach. Whereas Carly’s piece contains a certain wistfulness, both in tone and terms (“I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee…”), Kacey’s direct personality shines through with no such regrets (“So why don’t you giddy-up, giddy-up and ride straight out of this town”). Rather than wallowing in what-if’s and if-only’s, this song is an upbeat, female anthem to ridding oneself of a partner unable to recognize the gem in front of their eyes.
After seeing the liner notes for Golden Hour, it comes as no surprise that Trent Dabbs was a co-writer on High Horse. His influence is undeniable. With an ABBA-like vibe (not to mention the official, psychedelic lyric video), this one will take you back to the hey-day of disco lights, platform shoes, and lava lamps. The tempo is going to have you toe-tapping, swaying, and bopping along immediately. Initially, I found it to be an interesting contrast to the lyrics describing an ended relationship. On further consideration, though, it is a perfect fit for a break-up song that, rather than dwelling on the past, looks forward to a brighter future.
In sum, I say let the “traditionalists” criticize all they want. The whole album is an absolute MUST have, and High Horse gives us a further peek into the genre-less genius that is Kacey Musgraves.