I've been a huge admirer of Kacey Musgraves since I first heard her 2013 release, Same Trailer Different Park. The songwriting on that album was excellent; it sounded more like a traditional country album, with somewhat progressive lyrics for the genre. (Smoking dope, same-sex relationships, etc. Not your typical Nashville establishment stuff.)
Her 2015 follow-up album, Pageant Material was disappointing, with weaker songs that seemed to be extending the whimsical theme that appeared in a couple of places on her debut. At the time, I assumed that she or her label had smoothed off all the non-conformist edges so that she could have a longer career in country music. I didn't buy this album.
I was nothing short of delighted when I first listened to her current 2018 release, Golden Hour, and there haven't been many days since its release that I haven't listened to at least 1 or 2 tracks. Unlike, Taylor Swift's breakout pop album, 1989, which has no place in the country genre, Golden Hour is still a country album, but it's also a pop album, and a psychedelic folk album! High Horse is a four on the floor disco song, for goodness sake! The title cut and Slow Burn sound like they could have been written in Laurel Canyon in the late 60s or early 70s. (She cites Neil Young as an influence, and some of the changes in these songs are very reminiscent of his songwriting for After The Gold Rush.)
Even though the production on her earlier albums was very good, she was savvy enough to find a new, contemporary production team of Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk for this one. (Madonna did a similar thing throughout her career, of working with the latest, hot producers to keep her sound fresh.) I was already familiar with Daniel Tashian through his band Silver Seas, and his production shines through. The entire production on this album has a contemporary sound, and I find it inspirational, and it encourages me to take a few risks with my own productions. Oh, What A World features a banjo AND a vocoder!
She was also smart enough to bring some Nashville heavyweights to assist with the songwriting, including Jesse Frasure, Hillary Lindsey, and Grammy-winning, British songstress, Amy Wedge. Wonder Woman is a stand-out song that features all of these songwriters.
Something very special is going to have to be released between now and Christmas to knock Golden Hour off my top spot for album of the year.