Music Reviews
Here Comes the Cowboy

Mac DeMarco Here Comes the Cowboy

(Mac's Record Label) Rating - 8/10

Mac Demarco's latest, Here Comes The Cowboy, induces daydreams like I'm inner-tubing down a lazy river while sipping Shlitz. Maybe some friends are with me, I'm not sure. But there's a distinction to be made here; while DeMarco caresses my mind into REM patterns, his craftspersonship is by no means sleepy. In fact, this might be DeMarco's most refined record yet.

As with DeMarco's previous outings, Here Comes The Cowboy is a personal work. Besides a little help from keyboardist Alec Meen and production tinkering by DeMarco's touring sound engineer Joe Santarpia, DeMarco wrote, sang, and played every instrument, and does so while, for the most part, eschewing his old tricks of hiding behind corrupted tape recordings or manic pitch-shifting. Instead, DeMarco plays an honest hand here, showing us his cards and letting us glimpse at perhaps the truest iteration of his persona.

And DeMarco's true self is reflective, melancholy, nostalgic and, as ever, mischievous. The titular first song signals that we're in no rush to get anywhere particular. A cloppity beat matches a Three Amigos-style campfire guitar as DeMarco sings “Here comes the cowboy” every few measures, ten times in fact, to the point where I wondered, "Is this a promise, or a threat?" The song repeats those same measures for three minutes before fading out, at which point I thought, "Well, that's a song everyone's gonna skip after one spin."

I was wrong. As with similarly repetitive Choo Choo, a funky mid-album interlude, these songs grew on me with repeated listens. They're an essential part of the journey, lulling you into sedation so that the other more complex songs can suck you into their daydreams. And what daydreams they are. Like Ariel Pink, DeMarco has a knack for shifting us into a parallel universe, in this case, one in which retro country scenes intersect with melancholy cities—where cowgirls are wooed and relationships beget gratitude, growth, and regret. We dip in and out of cowboy motifs, little doggies, trains, and this is all focused through a cycle of songs that are soothing in their simplicity and repetition. Every track has an addictive hook, be it DeMarco's falsetto choruses, a glycerin guitar wiggle, an organ filtered through reverse reverb, or, later in the album, the return of DeMarco's pitch-shifting.

Yet, as with DeMarco's last album, This Old Dog, when DeMarco pitch-shifts now he's miles away from his earliest work, where his tonal dissonance felt borrowed from Connan Moccasin and used as a safety net. One could even suggest DeMarco was hiding latent insecurity behind a gimmick, but not anymore. On Here Comes The Cowboy, that dissonance is parceled out, adding a subtle hue to an increasingly evocative spectrum of sound. The end result is the kind of unique album that only results from someone who has spent a career staying true to themselves, playing every instrument, writing every song, adopting a singular fashion stance, and even opening their own record label. This album is a reflection of that growth, and hopefully a promise for more of the same.