REVIEW: Lady Antebellum – Golden

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Artist: Lady Antebellum
Album: Golden
Genre: Country/pop
Label: Capitol Nashville

Lady Antebellum’s Golden is a pleasingly composed affair. I’m reluctant to call it mature, though it is most certainly that – the word often implies dullness or sanctimony but in this regard it means something restrained and reserved, comfortable in its execution. It’s far more enjoyable than their last effort, the wayward Own the Night, and feels like a much more effective representation of them as a band. It’s a very pop release and unapologetically thus, but perhaps not in the way you’d expect. In lieu of fast, sprightly chart numbers there are mostly romantic, gentler refrains that hearken back to the old days of soaring vocals and tangible emotion. Golden wears its heart firmly on its sleeve and is shamelessly honest and intimate, but this makes it all the more engaging – it feels warm and inviting, asking you to indulge in its sentimental side as much as the band do.

Much of the music on Golden is very subdued, meaning a great deal hinges on vocalists Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley. Both turn in sublime performances throughout – Scott in particular sounds graceful and expressive, while Kelley provides a warmer, humanistic contrast. Their alternating vocals bring depth and complexity to the album and highlight the spectrum and intensity of emotions underlining many of the songs. This is particularly evident on “Goodbye Town,” which is quite possibly the album’s signature track. A muted, brooding number, it reflects upon the memories and sensations left in the wake of a significant other’s departure. Kelley and Scott seize upon the enormity of the lyrics in the chorus and bring real life to a lovely and aching portrait of desperation. The piano work is beautiful, incising the relatively jovial beat with flickers of both hope and memory. “Nothin’ Like the First Time” also recollects past loves, but more fondly. It’s gentle and embracing as befits the subject matter, and the vocalists infuse the sentiment with life. Both are equally strong when carrying a song alone. Scott, in particular, has a number of memorable showcases for her voice. Opening number “Get to Me” is loving with a bittersweet streak; composure shot through with pained longing. The underlying emotions become palpable in her voice and she carries it with poise and elegance. “It Ain’t Pretty” is a relatively weak song on its merits – the lyrics aren’t the deepest or most original but Scott manages to make it touching, a lone voice in a relatively minimalistic rendition. Kelley, in turn, leads the title track “Golden.” One of the finest on the album, it’s an intricate number that unfolds in soft, refined loops. The guitar work is gorgeous – acoustic, tender, and engaging, and Kelley is a homely and soothing presence. There’s a poignancy and sincerity in his voice that makes this a far more captivating love song than most.

This simple sophistication informs much of Golden, but that’s not to say it’s without a few more conventional pop numbers. “All For Love” sounds almost dramatic, so sudden is its burst of intensity after the slower songs. It’s an excellent chart number – arching and aching, rife with sentiment, and replete with a brooding solo. “Can’t Stand the Rain” also builds well and ought to be particularly impressive in a live setting, though its unfailing cheesiness is a touch off-putting.

A terrific leap from Own the Night, Lady Antebellum have completed something almost uniformly appealing in Golden. It is simple and elegant enough to allure most listeners, but coloured with enough sincerity and heart to make it meaningful. Indeed, in a pop landscape largely dominated by artifice and flamboyance, there may (and ought to) be a substantial audience out there for a slower, more thoughtful take on the genre. It’s an approach one hopes they will stick with in the future.

SCORE: 8/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

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