Cat Power – The Wanderer
“Doctor said I was not my past, He said I was finally free”. The return of Chan Marshall after a six-year absence was one of the year’s greatest moments. And there were a few of those.
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
“I was just coastin’, never really goin’ anywhere, Caught up in a web, I was gettin’ kinda used to stayin’ there, And out of the blue, I fell for you”. Kacey Musgraves made the big time in 2018, but also managed to subvert it slightly when she was there. That’s a great trick.
Soccer Mommy – Clean
“And I knew when I met him, That he’s the one I want to be with, ‘Cause I can see him, Blossom in the future that I’m dreamin'”. Good old-fashioned indie guitar music from Soccer Mommy. And yet not a throwback sound. Good.
Snail Mail – Lush
“It took so long to know someone like you, And age in the dying sun, With only the vivid greens and blues”. Good old-fashioned indie guitar music from Snail Mail. And yet not a throwback sound. Good.
Jess Williamson – Cosmic Wink
“I could stay on the crest of the wave, In the sea of your love all my days”. The transformation of Jess Williamson’s music over the course of three albums has been revelatory. Cosmic folk, Texas-style.
If you can’t think of anything wry, sly, faintly ironic, or even mildly amusing to say, then just signal that some really good albums have been released in the last few weeks and leave it at that.
Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs
The more you listen, the better it gets. For Wye Oak’s new album isn’t quite as immediate as some of its predecessors. Nonetheless, it’s well worth making your way up a very large sand dune in what aren’t the world’s most sensible shoes to listen to.
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
There’s a lovely languorousness to much of Golden Hour, including the title track itself. For an album with country roots and acoustic melodies, it still knows how to get into a slightly spacey groove. And there’s a beautiful song about mothers too.
Laura Veirs – The Lookout
The Lookout is Laura Veirs’ best album for quite some time. Produced by Mr Laura Veirs, the great Tucker Martine, the arrangements are impeccable. And as if that’s not enough, there’s a cameo from the Oscar-nominated Sufjan Stevens as well.
Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
There’s a simple conceit at the heart of Kacey Musgrave’s wonderful new album. She’s a part of country, yet she ain’t. The country themes are pretty standard. There are songs about family, and small towns. “I’m just a dime store cowgirl”, she sings, “That’s all I’m ever gonna be, You can take me out of the country, But you can’t take the country out of me”. There’s usually a twist, though. “I ain’t pageant material, I’m always higher than my hair”. And oftentimes the twist is a slightly bitter one. “[I]t ain’t that I don’t care about world peace, But I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage”. It can make for slightly uncomfortable listening for a certain kind of country audience. “We all wrangle with religion”, she confides, “We all talk, but we don’t listen”. There are also a couple of swipes at the music industry. “Let’s promise when we get in that we’ll try to get right out”, she sings on ‘Late To The Party’, “Fake a couple conversations, make the necessary rounds”. And there’s a debate about whether ‘Good Ol’ Boys Club’ is getting at Nashville’s own Big Machine Records and even Taylor Swift herself. Sometimes it seems like a thin line to be treading, but it’s one that she safe on for the moment. The records are selling. The awards keep coming in. And perhaps, just perhaps, she’s captured a certain cultural Zeitgeist that others have failed to grasp. It wouldn’t work, of course, if the songs weren’t strong. They are. Or if the voice wasn’t so sublime. It is. Pageant Material is a great album and one that’s at its best when it’s willing to push the conceit as far as it will go. Keep pushing.
Pretty Much Amazing review
American Songwriter review