Mellow, moody numbers

Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco reveals brooding, tender moments in a minimally embellished fourth album

The arrangements by Mac DeMarco (left) in the album are folky with strong bedroom studio vibes.
The arrangements by Mac DeMarco (above) in the album are folky with strong bedroom studio vibes.PHOTOS: COLEY BROWN, MAC'S RECORD LABEL

Has Canadian indie rock wag Mac DeMarco gone country? The title of his fourth full-length album certainly suggests so.

The moniker, and the gentle, twangy strums that open the album, are just a decoy actually, a typical cheeky move from the singer-songwriter.

Here Comes The Cowboy is more akin to a comedown, Sunday morning post-party album, full of mellow and, at times, moody tunes.

Almost all the instruments are played by DeMarco himself, save for some keyboards, and its almost minimalist, folky arrangements have strong bedroom studio vibes.

There is a hidden track - such a 1990s thing to do - after the last song Baby Bye Bye fades out. It is a funky jam with some playful "yee-haw, mama!" yells, a wry take on the album's cowboy motif.

In Nobody, he seems to grapple with the tag of being one of contemporary indie rock's most prominent solo acts, proclaiming gently that "there's no turning back to nobody". Finally Alone feels like a response to all the attention, and despite the gentle swing of the tune, the man is in dire need of solitude ("Sick of the city, locked in with all the pretty people/You need a vacation").

In a nod to his previous album, 2017's This Old Dog, DeMarco employs his falsetto voice as he croons "March on, little doggy/March on, little dog" on Little Dogs March and hints at having had his fill and moving on. This is repeated in a couple of lines in Baby Blue ("Remember now the time's been spent up/There's no place left to rent out/There ain't much else for you to do").

The album has its emotionally tender moments. On K, he pays tribute to girlfriend Kiera McNally, declaring "surely I'd be dead, baby, had I gone with someone else", with only an acoustic guitar to back his singing.



    Mac DeMarco

    Mac's Record Label

    3.5 Stars

Heart To Heart is another touching tribute, this time to a fellow Mac, the American rapper Mac Miller, who died sadly from a drug overdose last year. Driven by a groovy display of his underrated bass playing, DeMarco offers a toast to their connection ("Walking parallels, heart to heart/To all the days we were together/To all the time we played a part/In each other's lives, heart to heart").

There are several songs where he skimps on the lyrics and opts instead to repeat the same phrase over and over again.

On album closer Baby Bye Bye, the title is repeated over slide guitars and more "yee-haw" exclamations. It is mildly frustrating and feels like he is putting in minimal effort, but perhaps it is a sly dig at the "slacker rock" label that he has been tagged with.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2019, with the headline 'Mellow, moody numbers'. Subscribe