How can you not love Mac Demarco? His level of proficiency is second to none and has easily one of the most likeable personalities in music right now. I think what attracts so many people to Mac is just how easy-listening his music is, it is always a deft combination of a smooth summer jam and a lazy Sunday ballad. When coupled with whimsical lyricism and clever production it makes Mac-Daddy a polarising figure. For his 6th outing, Here Comes The Cowboy doesn’t at all let anything slip, it’s still filled with heartfelt love songs, joyous choruses and the right dosage of charm. Moving slightly away from the synth-filled electronic experimentation of This Old Dog, Mac returns to his more acoustic roots with surprising moments of funk; making Here Comes The Cowboy a truly wonderful and uplifting experience.
Gone are the surf-rock sheaths that Mac Demarco once upheld, if it wasn’t already apparent the stylistic choices Mac has made on his past two records is significantly different than the Rock n Roll nightclub, 2 and Salad Days trilogy. This trend continues on Here Comes The Cowboy, piano ballads are much more frequent and everything is more stripped back with a very organic feel. The album title opener makes this more than known with its minimum chord structure and slight tapping of sticks to keep beat. Mac sins smoothly over the top, “Here comes the cowboy” over and over again, inviting listeners to join him in his new album, almost like a prologue for what is to come. It’s almost fitting that lead single Nobody follows on, a track that keeps similar structure and tone of Here Comes The Cowboy. Nobody is a beautiful song that is made up of tiny moving pieces that all mesh together wonderfully. Plucky bass and guitar lines flow throughout salt shakers and low synth chords while Macs effortless vocals shine. The self-realisation of age was a theme throughout This Old Dog and is seen through the lyrics in Nobody, “There’s no turning back to nobody, there’s no second chance, no third degree”. Yet, the tone feels almost optimistic and sincere which is a common trope with Mac songs; no matter how sad the subject matter is, there’s always a ray of hope.
Finally Alone lightens the mood with a much tighter form of instrumentation and a bassline that dances stunningly. Once again, the softer side of Mac is unsheathed as he tells a tale of a cowboy that leaves the city for peace, only to return when he gets homesick. Whether Mac speaks of himself in third person as “the cowboy” is up to interpretation, one thing is for certain though and that is Mac’s beautiful vocals work that hit some soothing highs. The pace is shifted into Little Dogs March, a nod to his previous album This Old Dog. Mac swoons “March on little doggy, march on little dog”, amidst the plucky low-toned electric, asking himself to once again move on from the past worries of becoming old and get on with life. Preoccupied struts in and is incredibly soothing in tone and tiny details. Birds chirp quietly as the beat plods along simply, by the time the chorus comes around the light snap of a snare and chime of an electric guitar give the track a real flavoursome boost. They correlate wonderfully with Mac’s vocals and create stand-out track that doesn’t overcomplicate matters in anyway, rather keeps things to a minimum allowing the smaller details to take control.
The tone feels almost optimistic and sincere which is a common trope with Mac songs; no matter how sad the subject matter is, there’s always a ray of hope.
Completely shifting the atmosphere comes Choo Choo, Mac-Daddy brings the funk for two and half minutes in a complete tonal shake-up. Slapping basslines, Nile Rodgers-like guitar plucks and even a train whistle, Choo Choo has it all. There’s no real lyrical substance, yet the music production is fun, fresh and a total shock to the system when compared to every other track. We are then brought back down to earth with K, a love ballad not too dissimilar than Let My Baby Stay on his third LP Salad Days. This is vintage Mac, creating a love song for his beloved Kiki (DeMarco’s long-time partner that is so famously referenced in many of his LPs). It’s just Mac and his acoustic as he reflects “As the years blow by baby, the more I come to know myself, the more it seems my love grows for you”. Once again Mac Delving into self-evaluation but this time around seeing the positivity in growing old, which is stronger love for his Kiki.
Heart To Heart takes the synths from This Old Dog and brings them centre stage a well-crafted track about Mac’s friendship with the late Mac Miller. It’s sombre and saddening as Mac reflects on the good times with his good pal, but nonetheless impressive in production and style as synths ebb and flow throughout. Mac’s fascination with keys continue throughout On The Square really continuing the stripped down style and introspective lyrics of previous tracks. All Our Yesterdays is probably the closest the album gets to an old Mac song, with a lively chorus and melody that wouldn’t be lost on 2. Breezy progression and a tantalising hook that is sure to be a fan favourite in weeks to come, what sweetens the track is definitely Mac’s charming lyrics. “And that don’t mean your dream is over, and that don’t make your heart beat slower”, simple yet elegant.
Closing out the album is Baby Bye Bye, which brings all the likeable elements littered throughout Here Comes The Cowboy and creates a truly charming singalong. The salt-shakers, gongs, plucky guitars and toasty synths all roll into one whimsical chorus of “bye-bye baby, baby bye-bbye”. For some unknown reason it is reminiscent of David Bowie’s Memory of a Free Festival which closes out his 1969 self-titled album; the so-so verse that ultimately breaks out into a full singalong chorus. To shake things up further Mac tacks on a funk outro after 30 seconds of silence, not too different than Choo choo. The song is essentially divided into three acts of acoustic intro, bombastic chorus and a funk-infused finale, and it works incredibly well.
Here Comes The Cowboy closes yet another chapter in the Mac DeMarco saga, its very clear throughout the album that he is moving past the worries and doubts of getting old, instead opting to just deal with it. Whether we will see another album that is thematically like this one and his previous two LPs, I highly doubt. But its clear that Mac doesn't just want to be remembered for his slacker rock, but for his skill in producing emotive and thoughtful songs. Here Comes The Cowboy for myself isn't as memorable as 2 or This Old Dog, but it is a welcome LP in Mac's catalogue. It is heartwarming, touching and tender in execution, making itself a thoroughly enjoyable listen. Mac is certainly older and wiser, yet his music still doesn't fail to warm the heart and Here Comes The Cowboy makes well sure of this.