Mac DeMarco’s ‘Here Comes the Cowboy’ rides in on a dry note
Compared to the rest of Mac DeMarco’s discography, Here Comes the Cowboy didn’t quite live up to the standards of mellow grooviness that we’re used to from this king of indie. An album-length listen is slow enough to act as a calming sedative to the listener. It’s drawn out with uninteresting—and in some cases predictable— arrangements that more or less parallel DeMarco’s singing throughout the songs. His easy-going voice is common amongst all of his albums, but this one seems to hold a certain monotone dullness to it. The lyrics don’t necessarily shine through either on the surface, but when you take a deeper dive into the meaning, that’s really the only thing making this album one of the most important in DeMarco’s career.
Here Comes the Cowboy is powered by over-simplified progressions that drag on from beginning to end. As previously stated, this album doesn’t really follow the standards of mellow grooves from the fanbase; it contains a bit too much mellow and not enough groove. Most arrangements are repetitive and foreseeable, which makes the album more or less boring overall.
DeMarco’s voice seems to resonate within the same note throughout most of the songs, much like the instruments do. He has an unmistakable laid-back vocal tone and it’s very significant to his style, but in Here Comes the Cowboy, his voice echoes a deeper, lullaby tone that doesn’t change pitch much, if at all.
The last thing that adds to the sense of dryness on this album is the lyrics. In plenty of his past songs, DeMarco captures a certain ominous and poetic lyrical delivery. This trait doesn’t fade out in Here Comes the Cowboy, but the lyrics end up being even more simplified and twice as abstract. The verses are composed of simple phrasing and wording, and in some cases, the songs feature the same phrase over and over again, which sometimes gets a bit uncomfortable to listen to. This attribute alone makes it easy for your mind to lose interest and passively listen, making it harder to even give an effort into decoding the meaning.
The meaning, even as an active listener, is hard to catch due to the enigmatic word choice. Most words and phrases are shallow as they’re said aloud, but they hold deeper meaning that makes a lot of sense if you’ve followed DeMarco’s career up until this point.
Nearing the end
There’s a wide range of meaningful songs that comprise this album, stretching from love, to social issues, to humanity, to self-reflection. Although this is a good variety, the blatant theme of this album is the message from the artist; DeMarco might be using Here Comes the Cowboy as his own ending note. As an overall purpose for the album, the theme of DeMarco’s retirement from the music industry is hinted at again and again through the lyrics of a few particular songs.
In the song “Nobody,” DeMarco reflects back on his initial take on fame. He never necessarily wanted to be famous, but his music led him to it a bit haphazardly. He reflects on the life he once had, one of anonymity as a nobody. The sixth song, “Choo Choo,” rings with the lyrics “choo choo/take a ride with me/choo choo/come and die with me.” It’s suspected that DeMarco’s ride was his career, an innocent excursion through his passion. Much of his career brought him success, but it also brought him personal hardship, so with the line “come and die with me,” his career might be the one relinquishing life. “Little Dogs March” is probably the most transparent as far as hinting at DeMarco moving on from his career. His reference goes back to his album This Old Dog, in which he refers to himself as the dog. In this retrospect, DeMarco is telling himself to march on and move on from his past self, hence the title “Little Dogs March.” This theme is just about the only redeeming quality of the album, and it’s perfect because it’s not likely that DeMarco made this album for the fans, he made it for himself.
One of the biggest challenges in critiquing this album is having an understanding of his attitude toward other people’s opinions. He doesn’t feed off of fame, he’s doing what he wants to do with his music simply because he wants to do it—there’s a certain level of respect that should be given to an artist with that attitude and passion for music. From a fan’s perspective, compared to the rest of his music this album just doesn’t do much for us. The only thing it’s good for is bumming us out. The music and the lyrics being so simplified makes it hard to listen to, not only as a whole album but even some of the songs individually can be pretty boring. However, for DeMarco, the goal of the album wasn’t to impress the ears of the listener. Here Comes the Cowboy is an introspective work designed from the thoughts and experiences of DeMarco himself. He made this album a reflection of his own self-worth as an artist and as a realization that he’s grown through his success. The only thing this is for us is what seems to be a good-bye.
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