By Martha Kowalski
I’m on the late side of discovering this album – released in May of 2020 and about half a year later has come my eureka moment – so this is not going to be your hot-off-the-press, breaking news review. Perhaps you’ve already heard of this album, and chances are if you’ve recently flipped to your local Top 40 radio station, you know “Lose Somebody” featuring OneRepublic. I suppose this review has been a long time coming, so finally here goes: in its golden hour, Golden Hour by Kygo.
In hindsight, I was probably expecting this album. I must have been listening to Kygo for longer than I realized, because it’s somehow been six years since one of his first breakout hits, “Firestone” with Conrad Sewell, came out. Since then, I’ve heard a number of his songs here and there – the more well-known ones such as “It Ain’t Me” with Selena Gomez and guilty pleasures like “First Time” with Ellie Goulding. Being an avid figure skating fan, a particularly memorable track is “Stole the Show” from Nathan Chen’s exhibition performance. While I enjoyed his music, I didn’t follow Kygo as an artist, but I knew if I heard one of his songs I would (a) recognize it’s Kygo right away, and (b) like it with very high probability. I came to like his DJ style – softer and more subtle and composed than the pounding bass lines, climbing scales and jarring drops of more predictable EDM, crossing into genres of house, yet still hard to definitively characterize and capture in one term that mirrors the complexities and intricacies of the melodic layers he creates in his songs. It was actually Sasha Sloan that led me to the beautiful Arctic lyric video for “I’ll Wait” and made me discover this album. I instantly loved this song, and when I found out it was part of a whole album naturally the first thing I had to do was take a listen and discover what I’d been missing for so long.
To put it most simply: I like this album a lot. I could probably try to make that sentence more eloquent but seriously, that’s it: I like it a lot. Given my prior knowledge of Kygo’s music, it is everything I expected it to be and better. There is something lovely about this album – something consistent and reliable that carries through every track, that leaves no room for disappointment in any song; Kygo does not let you down. I have my favorites on this album, but not at the expense of the other tracks on it – these songs are not my favorites because I think the others are worse. Quite contrarily, it is because all of the songs are so good that these in particular step up to the challenge and give 110%.
One of these songs has to be “I’ll Wait.” What more can I say? Aside from being the first song I heard from this album and the visually stunning lyric video, Sasha Sloan’s vocals on this track are flawless – reaching deep into low alto ranges before soaring back up in crescendos with ease. I also love the duality of “Broken Glass.” Kim Petras’s voice is deceptively happy for a song about raising a toast to a failed relationship – ironic and witty, it’s sheer musical poetry. Other highlight tracks for me would have to be the beautiful “Beautiful” and the sassy “Like It Is” with Zara Larsson and Tyga. I was surprised by the raw emotion in Haux’s voice in “Only Us” that was a powerful closing track despite its fragile feel – or maybe because of it. My favorite song overall off this album though is “How Would I Know.” Heartfelt and heart-wrenching, melodically and lyrically tear-jerking – a musical monologue of wanting to give a relationship another chance but not knowing if it’s worth going through another heartbreak.
I’ve only mentioned a few songs from the album here. In truth, I could write a paragraph about each of the eighteen songs and why I consider them to be so good, but that would make this review equivalent in length to a short novel. In summary then, I find there to be something so special about Kygo and this album – music that satisfies my electro preferences enough, in a way that lets the vocals and lyrics shine through as well. Whether the title Golden Hour refers to Kygo’s belief that this album is the pinnacle of his career thus far, or to the pleasing fact that this album’s duration is an hour exactly, it doesn’t matter. It is golden – no fool’s gold, but rather genuine and brilliant and timelessly Kygo.