Label: MCA Nashville
Released: March 30

The narrative that surrounded Golden Hour when it was released this past spring was intriguing: talk of acid trips, Sade, songs written for LGBTQ youth, and “galactic cosmic country.” Of course, the fact that so many mainstream outlets fell in love with the record also translated to talk about whether it was, in fact, country. But now that we’ve had time to appreciate Golden Hour for what it is, apart from the colorful interviews and definition-of-country battles, we know it’s a beautiful collection of songs, whatever genre you want to lump it into. Musgraves, alongside collaborators Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian, crafted melodies and chord changes that feel familiar without being predictable. Lyrics are evocative and emotional, but still specific and clever. Arrangements know when to strip down to almost nothing and when to bring in flourishes of color from a banjo or a pedal steel. Musgraves’ nod to Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush on album highlight “Space Cowboy” (“You can have your space, cowboy”) is not an accident. Young was one of the singer’s earliest influences, and she shares his fuck-you attitude to genre and expectation. If Musgraves wants to include a dance song (“High Horse”) or a one-minute sketch about intergenerational loss (“Mother”), she’s going to go right ahead and do it. We’re all the luckier for it. —Shawn Setaro