Mac Demarco’s latest album, ‘Here Comes the Cowboy’, is a fresh addition to his catalogue. Prior to this album, Mac’s repertoire consisted of mellow psychedelic rock/pop tracks evoking the imagery of chilling on the beach in a hammock, in-between two palm-trees, sipping a cooler and opening a pack of Viceroy without a single worry. On this album, Mac retains his sweet melancholy vibe but pushes away the psychedelia of his music in favor of novel influences, more specifically of folk-rock and country-rock.
The opening title track is probably the most minimalist first piece out of any Mac Demarco album. It features the titular phrase softly sung by Mac over a delicate guitar progression in a mantra-like manner. “Here comes the cowboy”, Mac sings, as if narrating the arrival of a country ballad’s lonesome protagonist. The hi-hats remind one of the sound of horses galloping, adding to the pastoral imagery painted by the singer.
The next two tracks, ‘Nobody’ (the album’s first single) and ‘Finally Alone’, pick up the mellow vibe from the previous track and continue the solitary narrative of the album, taking it further by adding to it the trademark Mac Demarco wistful jangle-rock sound. The latter, in particular, exhibits endearing purifying reactions to the thought of turning one’s back on the city life and getting some reflective alone time. Thematically, it feels like a continuation of previous introspective Mac songs à la ‘Chamber of Reflection’. It’s like your ego struggling with loneliness, and ultimately getting used to it, being able to learn to love solitude. A life-changing point.
On tracks like ‘All of our Yesterdays’, ‘K’, and ‘Little Dogs March’, Mac reflects on the futility of dwelling on the past. It’s as if Mac reminds himself to be grateful for his past experiences. Both good and bad, they account for all of his yesterdays. These pieces stand out as intimate displays of complacency on behalf of the artist, as no matter what happens, it will be another fond piece of the past.
‘Preoccupied’ is one of the personal highlights of the album, its bittersweet guitar riff is especially melancholic, even by Mac Demarco standards. The subtle percussion and the bird chirping sounds scattered around are a nice touch to it. ‘Choo Choo’ is one of the more dynamic pieces from the album. Japanese multi-instrumentalist Haruomi Hosono’s influence upon Mac’s music is undeniable, even more so on this piece, whose chorus feels like an homage to Hosono’s track ‘Choo Choo Gatagoto’, from his 1973 album ‘Hosono House’.
The two-parter closing track, ‘Baby Bye Bye’, which clocks at 7:30 minutes, feels like the antithesis of the opening title track. The discrepancy between the two of them adds to the impression of a full journey encapsulated in a 47-minute album. The album starts with a mellow, sparse-in-instrumentation track and ends with a track that gets progressively more intense throughout its duration. The first part of the track has as its centrepiece Mac’s lullaby-like chanting of the title, around which the accompanying instrumentation expands, gradually adding layer after layer; starting from a shaker to an acoustic guitar, to full drums and percussion, keys and another vocal layer.
A sound recording in Japanese marks the transition between the two parts of the song. The second part is a chaotic, cathartic climax to the album, with Mac frenetically and soulfully screaming quintessential country “yee-haws” over a vigorously funky folk-rock tune, which reminds one not only of Haruomi Hosono’s solo work, but of his work with his band Happy End as well, more specifically their 1971 album ‘Kazemachi Roman’.
‘Here Comes the Cowboy’ is at times both Mac’s most minimal album as well as his most maximal. It sees Mac abandoning his previous psychedelic sound, opting to do a folk-rock album with country influences. Lyric-wise it features some of Mac’s more self-concerned ruminations, which show a more mature side to him: an introspective layer hidden beneath his slacker persona. There are still some tracks which feel a bit on the safe side, sounding like your average Mac Demarco song, the type of which a lot of people have heard on his previous albums. Nevertheless, it is overall refreshing to see Mac experiment with different genres and blend them with his staple song writing formula.
‘Here Comes The Cowboy’, the new album by Mac DeMarco, comes out on Friday 10th May 2019!