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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

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Going deeper with ‘Deeper Well’

Musgraves has begun an entirely new journey with “Deeper Well” and makes a point to not leave her audience, or herself, behind.

“Deeper Well” is unlike any Kacey Musgraves album that precedes it. It’s unlike 2018’s “Golden Hour,” which basks in the sunlight of new love and stares out into the endless sky, and 2021’s “star-crossed,” which saw the artist sitting in the midst of the anger and frustration of divorce. This Musgraves album reassures us that love and heartbreak are natural, and above all else, everything will be OK.

Just as atmospheric as its predecessors, “Deeper Well” brings listeners through a foggy meadow and into an open clearing to meet this new Musgraves. Alone but not lonely, the Nashville-based artist asks her audience to sit beside her as she recounts the tales of her life since we last heard from her. 

Opening with “Cardinal,” we see that the battle between choosing to be alone and loneliness has been at the core of her personal life: “Cardinal / Are you bringing me a message from the other side? / Cardinal / Are you tellin’ me I'm on somebody’s mind? / Don’t leave me behind.” This leads into the other songs, like the album’s title track, “Deeper Well:” “So, I’m saying goodbye to the people that I feel / Are real good at wasting my time / No regrets, baby, I just think that maybe / You go your way and I’ll go mine.”

While this choice of solitude could have harmed Musgraves, she proves in songs like “Moving Out” that she felt the summer of her life coming to a close. As autumn moved in, she decided to move out. This brings us back to the meadow that much of the album’s visuals take place in: why are we here? It’s not because she’s afraid of going out. She’s given herself the tools to withstand the weather in any environment (as detailed in “Sway”); it’s because she sees the beauty of the space around her, regardless of if she has a partner (highlighted perfectly in “Dinner with Friends”). The singer pulls you into a patch of grass where flowers once were and describes them in such detail that you can almost make them out in front of you.

Each version of the artist, past and present, has room to breathe on this album. With her vocals stacked heavily on “Heart of the Woods,” Musgraves speaks of herself in the third person, discussing how she and nature are now working together to protect the life she has set up for herself. But temptation, especially to let a stranger in, always exists. It’s the subject of many of the album’s final songs as Musgraves ponders whether her meadow has become a fortress of solitude.

As she lets her guard down and sees her first visitors, she’s almost unable to tell if these people are real, as shown in “Anime Eyes”: “When I look at you, I’m always looking through anime eyes / A million littles stars bursting into hearts in my anime eyes.” By the time she takes her eyes off her partner, her meadow has changed. Where grass once was, flowers take its place. Shocked, both at the beauty and difference of the world she created, she reassures herself and her audience that regardless of what flowers bloom or wilt in this new era, she’s embracing it. As the closing track of the album says, there truly is “Nothing to be Scared Of.”