Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material

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I adore this record. Whereas other 2013 breakthrough female country artists (breaking clichés; breaking conventions) like Ashley Monroe and Brandy Clark turned outward with bigger production, Kacey Musgraves turned inward. Lead single “Biscuits” is as good an example as any; to these ears, it sounds like a (just as good) rewrite of “Follow Your Arrow” – the same opening chord, tempo, strum pattern, similar choruses (and the message therein), similar plays on contradiction, ie. “I’ve never gotten taller making someone else feel small”, “Pouring salt in my sugar won’t make yours any sweeter” – but sans the pop-song “Hey!”’s. Thus, this one might’ve been less immediate than either Monroe’s or Clark’s follow-ups, but it revealed itself to be better, and not only that, to be one of my favorite/the best records of 2015. The short version: this is tuneful, lyrically informed (especially the title track), beautifully sung (especially “Late to the Party”; that falsetto who could your heart in half), with a lot of attention in the instrumentation (though not as much and not as varied as her debut). ‘Tis true: it does play it by-the-book sometimes, the sweetness does sometimes go beyond safe diet levels (“Somebody to Love”) and clichés like “I’m sorry I’m not sorry” and “if you ain’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all” are more clichéd than I want from this anti-cliché heroine. But check out the harmonized descent and then whistled hook of “High Time” (perfect alarm clock music); the way the syncopated guitar punctuates the wordy hook of “This Town”; the string line that appears right after the first chorus of “This Town” highlighting the small-town paranoia where everyone knows every detail of everyone else; the triple (?) guitar bed of “Die Fun”; the Willie Nelson-supporting hidden track the rare case of a hidden track being better than some of the proper stuff (including the lazy waltz it’s tacked onto). Did I mention that I adore this record? I do.

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4 responses to “Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material

  1. Pingback: Emmylou Harris – Pieces of the Sky (1975) | 1001albumsin10years·

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