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On “Deeper Well,” Kacey Musgraves goes into TikTok mode

“I Found a Deeper Well” is the thesis of Kacey Musgraves' new album, the source of its title and the chorus of its first single. That deeper well, that richer self-knowledge that Musgraves says is the source of this music, came via familiar channels: meditation, mantras, mushrooms, and Manhattan, where the album was primarily written and checked in. Now, as she recently explained to the cupshe's “much more grounded” and makes serious, thoughtful music to prove it – a pretty radical departure from the pop experiments of Cursed Star.

The song “Deeper Well” describes this story perfectly, a strategic take that suits Musgraves' status as a leading singer-songwriter-turned-songwriter: it's gently folk-poppy in a trendy way which nods to her outsized success. recent collaborators Noah Kahan and Zach Bryan, features a topical piece (she used to smoke a lot of weed, but not anymore), and includes digs at anonymous people who are “wasting my time” and “trying to take everything that “they can take” for superfans to obsess over (her first public relationship post-divorce ended in November).

The song isn't Musgraves' first dive into the deep end: “Die Fun” and “Slow Burn” (two of his best) both take a vaguely existential approach, odes to savoring the moment and following through his own path. What separates “Deeper Well,” the song, and Deeper well, the album, compared to their folk and introspective predecessors, is navel-gazing intensity and corresponding determination of the album's sound and flow. Now that Kacey is a near-mononymous sensation, she doesn't even need to make a move to release an album that includes a variety of sounds and topics. She chooses to keep the focus narrow here.

There is a slight margin for Deeper well, although it is more limited than Musgraves' listeners might have expected. With his collaborators since golden hour, Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian, and a few others, the singer-songwriter explores varying degrees of groove and adornment (she co-produced the album), without ever straying too far from the acoustic guitar as her epicenter. The opening track, an ode to John Prine called “Cardinal,” is such a self-aware throwback it feels like it could be a Simon & Garfunkel sampling; yet, with “Sway” and “Jade Green,” he’s almost danceable in the manner of “White Flag”-era Dido.

There are musical allusions – it's hard to imagine “Too Good to Be True” without “Breathe (2 AM)” and “Heaven Is” takes its melody from a Scottish folk song – but Musgraves' extracurricular reading s proves to be a more convincing inspiration. . “Dinner with Friends” is Musgraves' response to Nora Ephron's invitation to make lists of what you will and won't miss when you die; “Heart of the Woods,” with its trees talking to each other, makes it seem like she must have read at least a little of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book. Weaving sweetgrass.

These kinds of ideas, along with a fair amount of therapy jargon filtered through social media (Musgraves thanks his therapist in the liner notes, which are billed as a “zine”), shape many of the lyrics Musgraves sings with more detachment than usual (revealing, perhaps, his transcendent mental state). Yet her stated influences are traditional: “Sonically, I wanted to write classic American songs,” she said in the album's press release. “Real songs. No gimmicks. . . . New York is one of the places these records come from. Simon & Garfunkel, the Greenwich Village clubs, fingerpicking and James Taylor. Social commentary. Tell stories.

It is considerably more difficult to see the narrative and social commentary on Deeper well than seeing the inner work and reflection of Musgraves. The social commentary, at least rendered specifically, gets exactly one line among the “things I'd miss” in “Dinner With Friends”: “My home state of Texas / The sky there, the horses and the dogs / But none of their laws. » In the biography provided with the album, Musgraves explains that “The Architect” – one of the most conventional country songs on the release, and the only one co-written with early collaborators Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne – was written in response to the Covenant School. filming, in Nashville, and yet you would have no idea without reading this press article. Instead, the song – one of the strongest on the album – seems more likely to endure in youth groups than as a protest anthem.

There is a very popular trope among the vlogger/influencer crowd called “romanticize your life.” Musgraves, a self-confessed internet junkie if her Instagram is any indication, seems to have felt the appeal of the idea. Its liner notes depict a rather romantic view of the New York experiences that inspired it, ranging from an Irish bar that was mentioned in seemingly every story on the album to the smells of weed and piss in Washington Square Park, all of whom are linked, at least in this album's story, to the '60s folk songwriters who haunted Greenwich Village (she wears a black turtleneck and holds an acoustic guitar in the album's imagery for make the link clear).

Yet the album itself feels isolated, the product of someone who is shielded from the world both by physical walls (the idea of ​​”home” is often brought up) and by the comfort and ease that l money can buy. “Lonely Millionaire” is a bit damning as a portrait of an anonymous person: Doesn't Musgraves, too, get off a plane in a black car that she pays to wait for? New York is indeed the limitless buffet she describes, at least for those, like Musgraves, who can afford to sample its riches.

The biggest challenge of romanticizing your life – at least for influencers looking to use this trend to grow their following by filming videos of themselves very slowly brewing coffee to a soft piano soundtrack – is that there is inherently a gap between truly “romanticizing” one’s life. your life” (read: trying to live in the moment and enjoy what you have) and the process of capturing that romance for public consumption. Musgraves seems to do the former quite skillfully, which is great for her; in his quest to do the latter with More deeply, however, she leaves listeners too thin a slice of this exciting, romantic and rich life to truly taste it.

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