Here Comes the Cowboy
Mac’s Record Label
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It’s been two years since Mac DeMarco’s last full length record and now his fourth studio LP Here Comes the Cowboy has arrived. It’s an introspective look at his unique sound and familiar dreamy, indie ways.
I first heard of Mac DeMarco when a friend begged me to go see him live back in 2012. I had a head cold and was leaving the next morning for my grandfather’s funeral. For some reason I went, along with 20 other people. Mac urged us closer to the stage, a six-inch platform off the floor, and we all shuffled forward, mesmerized. After the show my friend offered to buy him a beer and Mac sat and talked with us for an hour. When I went back months later to the same club when he was out touring his debut LP 2, it was wall-to-wall bodies. During the show Mac climbed up on the open rafters of the drop ceiling and sang, hanging from his knees.
As fans, we long to be up close to the music so we can finally touch it. Of all the shows I’ve seen, small and large, this is the closest I’ve come.
What drew me in then is what keeps me coming back now: Mac’s signature guitar sound as a skilled, jazz noodler and his routine of telling vague yet intimate stories. There’s a slow, hazy quality to his music, as if it lives in a puff of smoke, cigarette or otherwise, and it always seems to be winking at you.
His new album Here Comes the Cowboy covers all of Mac’s beloved bases, only this time he seems to be hinting at a newfound darkness. At first there’s the slow churning title track with only one line, over and over. Later, “Choo Choo,” at first disguised as a filler track changes once you listen closer, and it’s gloomy. The lyrics escalate from “Take a ride with me,” to “You can die with me” to “Come and die with me.” “K” is undoubtedly a love song full of acoustic wonder and romance, yet he brings up his end “I’d be dead / baby / had I gone with someone else.” “Skyless Moon” takes us through the seasons but with existential musings, and as each changes, they’re “dead and gone.”
According to a recent interview he did with Huck magazine, when Mac isn’t touring, he rarely leaves his home in Los Angeles (hear “Finally Alone”). He’s a proud homebody who lives to jam and record. When asked what Here Comes the Cowboy is about, he said, “Reflecting on life, growing up. It’s always growing up with me.” He quit social media and keeps to himself. With that in mind the contemplation of time and death feels logical. Next April, Mac turns 30, a turning point for many from a childlike decade to one of adult awareness.
The birds chirping on “Preoccupied” are a reminder for us to slow down, too, and get on Mac’s level. A level that’s always been consistent, like his music, well known yet refreshing in the way singular artists are: they always sound like themselves. And after a decade of writing and recording, Mac has never made music to make a statement. Yes This Old Dog (2017) was about his family, but it barely got specific. Rarely is he even personal. He just wants to write and play.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that when Here Comes the Cowboy was announced back in March, Mac was clueless about Mitski’s critically acclaimed LP Be the Cowboy from last year, along with its lead single “Nobody,” just like his. After his publicist made a statement, Mac himself stepped to the mic to tell us he truly had no idea who she was. Mac told Huck, “I’m bad at keeping up with music. … Mitski’s song and my song sound eons different. Most of the people talking about it didn’t even listen to my song. With music today, [it seems] a lot of it isn’t about music.”
It turns out Here Comes the Cowboy is an enchanting Mac DeMarco record. The statement released alongside the record declares: “Cowboy is a term of endearment to me. I use it often when referring to people in my life. … Where I grew up there are many people that sincerely wear cowboy hats and do cowboy activities, these aren’t the people I’m referring to.” Mac’s craft of being a goof has matured and even taken a turn, to look up and think bigger. When he asks “Are you satisfied?” and “Is that all you had in mind?” on “On the Square,” I wonder if he’s asking himself. It’s clear he doesn’t have an answer.
After so many plays, I’m here to confirm Mac is not trolling Mitski in any way. Cowboys are a notorious image and idea in culture, relatable to listeners and musicians, clearly, no matter what kind of music (or art) you make. Here Comes the Cowboy is settled in itself, as Mac seems to be in life. The seven-minute album closer “Baby Bye Bye” is hunkered down, waiting to surprise us all ...with full-on Funkadelic mimicry.
Across Here Comes the Cowboy the lyrics are compact and repetitive, likely on purpose to let the instrumentation go wherever it wants. For me it’s a line in “Preoccupied” I keep returning to: “Opened your mind / and filled it with bullshit.” It’s a candid remark from a guy who has always been frank, the same one that hung from the rafters years ago. Thankfully we’ve all matured since then, but not too much to forget who we are. Just enough to know where we’re going.
Notable Tracks: "Baby Bye Bye" | “K” | "Preoccupied"