Earlier this week, Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour became the winner of the 2018 Pazz & Jop Critics poll. It’s the first album by a woman since tUnE-yArDs’ w h o k i l l in 2011, and it’s the second country album to ever win the poll, after Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (another sorta-country album heavily favored by people who aren’t really into country music) won in 1998.
I would have liked Janelle Monáe to win this year, but I’m not mad. I voted for Golden Hour in my sixth place spot, and might put it slightly higher if I were to have voted today.
I’ve been a fan of Kacey since her 2012 debut single “Merry Go ‘Round,” and her first album Same Trailer Different Park is still my favorite, but there merely solid Pageant Material made me worried that her approach would have diminishing returns. Opener “Slow Burn” (a great song I was still surprised to find is many’s favorite) does well to dash expectations that she’d make the same album a third time, and “Lonely Weekend” follows to assure you that she’s still adept at the zippier songs that made Same Trailer Different Park such a treat.
But what really brings Golden Hour up to this level is when she flexes her creative muscles and goes for it, expertly building around a melody with her best arrangement (my #1 song below) or lifting up a powerhouse song around her best vocals (#2 below). And I haven’t even mentioned “High Horse.”
This album is a successful, ambitious leap, the sound of an artist bounding forward in her abilities to make her music sound essentially her.
If you can, catch her tour. I did last weekend and it’s a real treat.
All songs here are at least solid. “Happy & Sad” and “Mother” stans, please be nice.
Yee haw. 🤠
13. “Happy & Sad”
10. “Oh, What A World”
09. “Golden Hour”
08. “Velvet Elvis”
07. “Wonder Woman”
05. “Slow Burn”
04. “High Horse”
03. “Lonely Weekend”
02. “Space Cowboy”
01. “Love Is A Wild Thing”