Here Comes the Cowboy is the latest full length release from Canadian singer-songwriter Mac Demarco. Known for his upbeat tunes and chill vibes, this album surprisingly takes a different turn. Long gone are the catchy choruses, heavy guitar and noodly riffs perfect for a summer day. Instead, we have a slower, self-reflective, and stripped down approach. Instrumentally Mac does the bare minimum, relying on quiet synths, sparse guitars, and empty space.
The 1st single, “Nobody” is a solid example of when Mac’s new approach works. The instrumentation consists of slow, delicate guitar and a buzzing synthesizer that swells in an out of the mix. The vocals are sincere, emotional, and heartfelt. It’s a quiet song with a lot of power behind its subtlety. It’s a more forlorn style than we’re used to from Mac, but the song is one of the high points of the album.
Some fans will be disappointed by the loss of the carefree spirit and jam-like vibe. Many tracks miss their mark entirely and leave a stale taste in the mouth. “Choo choo” (which is probably a joke), is a repetitive funk song where Mac simply sings, “choo choo, take a ride with me,” alongside a train whistle. The title track, “Here Comes the Cowboy,” is a bland, droning track and a frustrating start to the album. And the final track, “Baby Bye-Bye,” has almost no pay off whatsoever, even with its nonsense “secret” track at the end.
There are a handful of tracks that have shades of that old Mac spirit. “Preoccupied,” a personal favorite, has a natural and in-the-moment feel with its gentle guitars and samples of birds chirping. The guitar riff in the chorus has a beautiful intricacy, yet also the fun, apathetic laziness we have come to know and love from Mac. “Finally Alone” is another jam with a great falsetto vocal performance and entrancing melodic synth during the verse. Fans of Mac’s last album, This Old Dog will appreciate the synth heavy track, “Heart to Heart,” with its simple percussion, romantic lyrics, and feeling of close intimacy.
While Here Comes the Cowboy is simplified instrumentally from what we’ve previously heard, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s watered down. There’s a lot of good material present, it just might take a more hardcore Demarco fan or patient listener to appreciate it. Hopefully Mac can separate the good from bad and incorporate them with his trademark sound and personality in the albums to come.