Thursday, June 25, 2015

Best New Album: Kacey Musgraves' 'Pageant Material'

Fact: Kacey Musgraves is the only contemporary mainstream country music artist I listen to. Or ever have.

Two years ago, I stumbled upon her feisty debut album, Same Trailer, Different Park, after reading a review that described her as the "Kendrick Lamar of country" - a badmouthing, expectation-defying rebuttal to (then still) country Taylor Swift and her fellow purveyors of country pop ideals. I was immediately refreshed by her disses of stale, white picket-lined towns and some of the laughable scandal and culture that accompanies it all. In her songs, Musgraves talks often about the need to get out - similar to some of raps biggest influencers - and, it's more clear now than ever, that she has.

Musgraves didn't have a dissimilar upbringing to any of the Hot Country-topping cowgirls - she grew up in Texas, began writing songs at age eight and hit local festivals and fairs to show her talent, before getting a record deal. Her voice and strummed melodies are sweet as pie, so she I'd bet she was always destined for bigger stages, but how she uses that voice and stage are what sets the 26 year-old firecracker apart.

On her sophomore album, Pageant Material, Musgraves weaves together another 13 breaths of fresh air. The uncomplicated (so, in essence, real country) instrumentation and song genetics are sort of genius; they allow her also-uncomplicated songbird voice to state her claims plainly, and wisely, from the get-go. There's no shortage of commentary about good values, love lost and being yourself - but it's how Musgraves bends the typical tricks and gimmicks of traditional country western storytelling ("I'd rather lose for what I am, than win for what I ain't") when doling out untraditional lessons that makes her the new queen of the genre.

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