As 2020 comes to a close, I will release two album reviews before 2021 begins. First, all the way back in May, my favorite artist, Kygo, released his third studio album, Golden Hour. I loved his first two albums, Cloud Nine and Kids in Love. However, there were some duds on those albums, preventing them from becoming exceptional albums. I was excited for Golden Hour and after all my times listening to the album, I can easily proclaim it Kygo’s best album and one of the best of modern EDM.
Before I get into the album, I must establish several aspects. First, Kygo is my favorite artist because of his unique spin of EDM. Most popular DJs, such as Alesso, The Chainsmokers and Martin Garrix, while producing some electric and thrilling songs, mainly act as DJs with a knack for creating pulse-pounding music. While I definitely enjoy them, Kygo is unique as he acts more as a music-maker than a DJ. He has played the piano for nearly his entire life, meaning many of the piano bits in his music are him playing the piano. I love this, adding a unique and blissful take on EDM.
Also, as discussed in the previous two album reviews on the site, Kygo was inspired by the late Avicii, becoming his successor as he emphasizes making music over club bops like Avicii did. While the music itself isn’t the most deep or profound like many popular songs nowadays, the beats, use of vocals and the mixing of piano bits make Kygo a spectacular musician and my favorite artist.
Golden Hour was released on May 29 and the title is literal as the album lasts for exactly an hour. The album is meant to provide listeners a “golden hour” of music experience, which it fulfills this perfectly. It is paced well with more somber and hopeful music alternating with more lively and fast-paced beats. The somber songs work just as well as the lively songs, displaying the wide range of talents Kygo has in his music-making. The album displays a wide range of emotions as the variety allows the listener to connect with the different messages as the album goes along.
His deeper and yearning songs, such as “Feels Like Forever”, featuring Jamie N Commons, leave an impact. The song is about treasuring a moment with the one you love, making the moment feel like forever. Commons’ vocals are powerful, allowing the listener to connect with the emotions of the song.
The second track of the album, “Lose Somebody,” featuring OneRepublic, emphasizes the powerful emotion well. Ryan Tedder, the lead singer of OneRepublic, is my favorite vocalist; seeing him paired with Kygo yet again is heavenly. Their first song together, “Stranger Things,” on Kids in Love, was a powerful piece, full of yearning and appreciating the spontaneity and unpredictability of living life with the one you love. For “Lose Somebody,” Tedder returns with more powerful vocals, preaching through the song how losing somebody makes you realize how strong you actually love them. It is a relatable message as I have struggled with loss in my life. The vocals by Tedder, combined with the smooth background beats, make this an emotional journey every time I listen to the song. My favorite part of the song is the transition to the final chorus, allowing Tedder to use the full range of his vocals as he proclaims, “sometimes you gotta lose somebody,” It is powerful, giving me chills every time I hear it. Tedder excels at providing emotion through his vast vocal range and when he goes full emotion, it is a treat to my ears.
While the powerful and emotional songs work well, the more boppy and lively songs are fun, providing more thrilling music experiences. “Could You Love Me,” featuring Dreamlab, provides a tropical feel which is often present in his music library. Whenever I listen to the song, I feel like I am dancing on the beach, allowing me to feel uplifted as I am transported to a happy place.
My favorite song on the album is “Someday,” featuring Zac Brown. The song has incredible vocals from Brown as during the transitions into the beat drop, Brown’s vocals are allowed to flow on their own. It is pull of passion, yearning to be reunited with your special one while remaining at a distance. I love the way Kygo chops up the vocals, creating an unusual flow which subverts the listeners’ expectations before the beat drop. It is a well crafted song and combined with the stunning vocals, it is my favorite song on the album.
As previously mentioned, the way Kygo uses vocals are one reason I enjoy his music as he gets the most out of the singers’ vocal range and talents. I also love Kygo’s loyalty to other artists he has worked with and the different style of vocalists he chooses.
Golden Hour sees a plethora of new talent Kygo is working with for the first time, with many of them coming from different genres. He brings out rapper, Tyga, for a section on “Like It is,” a powerful duet with Zara Larsson. He uses Brown, a country artist, remixes an unreleased song from R&B legend Whitney Houston for “Higher Love” and relatively unknown artists such as St. Lundi for “To Die For.” I love the variety, making the journey to discover all these songs even more captivating.
However, I also love Kygo retaining artists for this album he has worked with on previous projects, displaying his loyalty. Aside from Tedder, Sandro Cavazza and Valerie Broussard return for Golden Hour. Cavazza worked with Kygo on “Happy Now,” honoring the late Avicii in 2018. Cavazza returns for “Beautiful,” a song about insecurity and opening up about one scars and pains. Broussard worked with Kygo on a 2019 single for Valentine’s Day, “Think About You,” the best Kygo song lyrically in his entire library as it deals with the relatable pains of a breakup. For Golden Hour, Broussard returns to voice the opening song of the album, “The Truth,” a chill song which is about someone thinking about their crush and deciding to make a move or not. I love the vocalists Kygo chose, both returning and new. I am excited to see who he works with for future projects.
Overall, Golden Hour is as advertised, a “golden hour” of a music experience. While not super deep, the messages work for the music Kygo produces. His incredible beats with piano are great as always, but what makes it fantastic are the vocals Kygo utilized in the songs. I am excited to see what he does next and I think this is an album everyone should check out.