“As the years blow by, baby, the more I come to know myself.” This is how Mac DeMarco opens “K,” from his newest album, Here Comes the Cowboy. What he knows himself to be, as he approaches his 30s, is no longer a party-hearty jokester. These days, he lives offline, except for Instagram. And he does what makes him happy: writing music for himself. He doesn’t care what people think of his music anymore. He doesn’t even care if anyone listens to it, and on Here Comes the Cowboy, his indifference shows.
Mac has called Here Comes the Cowboy his cowboy album. He goes all-in from the outset on the opening title-track. The percussion goes clip-clop as the track trots along. But “Here Comes the Cowboy” and “Choo Choo” sound so precious, they’re almost mocking. On the latter, he sings in onomatopoeia as the sound of a toy train toots behind him. And there are splashes of gong, all on top of a cliché funk rhythm. Like on “Here Comes the Cowboy,” he repeats the song’s title over and over again and sings little else.
The rest of the lyrics on the album are more substantive. Here Comes the Cowboy is filled with wanderlust. Its characters yearn to escape. On “Hey Cowgirl,” he poses her an ultimatum. “Will you stay on the farm, or will you come on back with me? Hey Cowgirl, give up all of your stars to watch some TV. Hey cowgirl, what’s it gonna be?”
Like Mac’s heart, his music has softened over the years. On “Finally Alone” and “Heart To Heart,” he evokes, more than ever, the warm, languid tones of his pal Homeshake. And it’s easy to imagine Mac barefooted and curled up with a guitar beneath a tree while birds chirp in the background on “Preoccupied.”
More than relaxed, though, Mac sounds weary. Melancholy seeps into his quiet tunes. “Little Dogs March” reflects his transition from partying to living a reclusive life: “Hope you had your fun. All those days are over now…. Kindly take your bow.” On first single “Nobody,” he sings: “There’s no turning back to nobody.” The song exhales like one long sigh with a sound that’s difficult to identify.
Uniform drowsy pacing makes it difficult to get through the album at times. At worst, most of the songs are repetitive. They are aimless, like the character in “Finally Alone,” who hops random trains in search of somewhere mundane, away from the city. The melancholy of wanderlust follows him up and down the tracks: “It turns out the cowboy yearns for the city. Who could have ever known?” he asks.
Here Comes the Cowboy ends with a highlight, though. Seven-minute closer “Baby Bye Bye” recalls Beck’s early alt-folk. Five minutes into the song, it takes a twist, leading to a restrained Jon Spencer-like rock jam. Mac’s a changed man, but maybe not as much as he thinks he is. Maybe one day, this cowboy will yearn for his salad days.
review by Leslie Chu