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Album Review: Mac Demarco 'Here Comes the Cowboy'

The slack rocker’s melancholic fourth album gives us a lot to think about, and less to bounce around to. Anticipation was ripe for Demarco’s next project following on from the commercial and success of 2017’s ‘This Old Dog’. However, the release of the Canadian's first single ‘Nobody’ and the consequent album title were marred in controversy as many believed Mac had copied fellow singer songwriter ‘Mitski’: she too had released a single of the same name and an album called ‘Be the Cowboy’.

Nevertheless, in typical Mac style he brushed this off and continued with the release of his latest EP; a heartfelt and tender album built upon a sparsity of orchestration hinted at in earlier records.The Western theme threaded throughout the album is immediately established in the opening title track. However, as Mac simply meditates on the same riff and vocal phrase over a steady drum beat it makes for a lethargic and frankly unexciting introduction.

Promise is shown in the following track ‘Nobody’, which takes the form of a heartfelt reflection on how the harsh nature of the music industry which has shoehorned and possibly affected his sound, it is a possible hint towards why Mac decided to release the record independently.

Accompanied by sounds of sweet guitar and muted horns over a bare drum beat, the exposed vulnerability shown is Mac at his finest. ‘Finally Alone’ builds upon this brilliance and the soft falsetto is a new addition to his palette of sounds, fitting in perfectly with the homely and comforting feel that permeates his discography.

Mac is a master in re-imagining melodies, incorporating them into places they don't conventionally go, yet he somehow still manages to make them endearing. Despite this, it is not the same story on this album as his attempts fall short - especially on his track ‘k’. Though a gentle tune, a bitter taste is left in the listeners mouth as he continually attempts to push the vocal line too far away from the accompaniment; you feel yourself almost urging him to just keep it simple and one can’t help but wonder if he’s attempting to compensate for the space left through the lack of accompaniment.

‘Heart to Heart’ is an impressive tune though and helps steer the album back on track. Drawing from his more electronic back catalogue through soft synth parts, Mac in his own quirky way is able to articulate indecipherable and confusing feelings in few words. The album then comes to a fitting close with the sprawling seven-minute track ‘Baby Bye Bye’ that flits between elements of country and funk.

Once again on this record Mac does prove that he is a master of simplicity. Glimpses of the simplistic brilliance that has come to define his style are definitely visible throughout, however the album itself just never really gains any momentum. Ultimately, it kind of feels like a winding path which doesn’t seem to arrive anywhere substantial or worthwhile; and you can’t help but wonder if his over-reliance on the relaxed ‘slack rocker’ approach which helped so many warm to him over the years is actually beginning to stunt his growth as an artist.

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