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Kacey Musgraves Dives In All the Way



Kacey Musgraves has never hidden her proclivity for the cosmos — her nickname is Spacey Kacey, after all. When she first teased her new project, Deeper Well, which arrives on March 15th, she did so by sharing an audio clip of just one line: “My Saturn has returned.” As with SZA just a few weeks ago, Musgraves seems to understand the time of profound change that can occur when someone completes a Saturn return, once in about every 30 years. For her, it meant it was time to start asking some important questions.

To come back to earth for a moment: For so many listeners, Kacey Musgraves is synonymous with her magical 2018 masterwork Golden Hour, which she followed with an adequate but comparatively standard 2021 LP, star-crossed. Fans of the former will be glad to hear that Deeper Well lands closer to Golden Hour territory, but it doesn’t feel like she was trying to replicate the project that earned her so much praise and more than a couple Grammy statues.

Instead, Deeper Well is centered on Musgraves asking questions about the world and her place within it. Winds change, and people do, too, and it’s clear that Musgraves felt ready to pick up the pen again to try something different. “I was in a weird place, then I saw the right face / And the stars and the planets lined up,” she mentions on “The Architect.”

When Musgraves announced Deeper Well and dropped the title track as a preview, she revealed that she’s working on putting down some of the habits that she feels were “wasting her time.” “I used to wake and bake/ Roll out of bed, hit the gravity bong that I made/ And start the day/ For a while, it got me by/ Everything I did seemed better when I was high,” she sings.

But not to fear — Deeper Well confirms that so much of the warm, psychedelic haze and consciousness-expanding lyricism that characterized Golden Hour are just woven into who Spacey Kacey is. “Heart of the Woods,” for instance, paints a portrait of an invisible, underground neighborhood that communicates with us mortals through trees and branches. In the excellent “Jade Green,” she sings, “I wanna bathe in the moonlight until I’m fully charged.”

Musgraves wrote on every song on the album alongside two of her most trusted collaborators, Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, while Shane McAnally (who co-wrote “Space Cowboy” and “Rainbow,” among others) contributes to one track. Deeper Well is harmony-laden and expertly produced by the trio of Musgraves, Tashian, and Fitchuk, and her vocals shine throughout the project; go back to an early cut from her discography, like 2013’s breakout “Merry Go ‘Round,” and the richness here is noticeable. It’s also a departure from the slicker studio sound employed on star-crossed, which never quite suited Musgraves’ natural tone.

Deeper Well opens with “Cardinal,” an immediately immersive tune plucked out of Laurel Canyon-ready strings that sets the tone for the record that follows. Throughout, Musgraves is ready to ask questions about the universe and prepared to get more than a little existential. She searches for communion with a higher power in the breezy, hopeful “The Architect,” looking at the world around us and asking, “I don’t understand/ Are there blueprints and plans? Can I speak to the architect?”

“Nobody knows where we go when we die/ Maybe we’ll ride white horses in the sky,” she muses on the subtly romantic “Heaven Is.” One standout arrives in “Sway,” another place where Musgraves welcomes imagery from the earth and sets to work finding the balance of a tree. Melodically lush, “Sway” is Musgraves at her best, balancing metaphor with reality while surrounded by expansive instrumentals. The background vocals from Tashian and Fitchuk are especially excellent here.

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“Jade Green,” another standout, makes its mark in the second half of the album, offering a quintessential Kacey Musgraves line that captures her ability to balance vulnerability with simplicity: “Like the bracelet that you gave me, I want you on my arm,” she sings in a tone of confession. There’s a moodier, darker quality to the song that conjures the image of a moonlit stroll through the woods or misty mountain drive; nothing spooky, necessarily, but not a peaceful atmosphere, either. Maybe it’s a sense of adventure.

Or maybe it’s that Kacey Musgraves is uniquely gifted at making mundane moments feel sacred. Her lyrics throughout the album are poetic by definition — she makes room to memorialize a pattern of light hitting her bedroom floor, horses and dogs in Texas, and paint drying on the wall. This, if anything, feels like the current that would make Deeper Well a good companion listen to Golden Hour: Musgraves’ truth-telling is in her musical DNA.

There aren’t any real misses on Deeper Well, and the record feels more like a dreamy mood piece or conversation with a friend than an attempt to round up a collection of chart-ready singles or social media-friendly soundbytes. Musgraves was far more interested in asking the bigger questions — and it doesn’t even seem to matter too much which answers she found. The deep dive was the point.



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