Thanks to a special kind of charisma and an excellent run of early releases (Rock and Roll Night Club, 2, and Salad Days), Mac DeMarco became a titan in indie rock just shy of a decade ago. Even in his subdued pivot to more serious matters on Another One and This Old Dog, DeMarco was able to age gracefully and prove he’s capable of facing real adult problems—all while maintaining his endearing laidback aesthetic.
DeMarco’s latest, Here Comes the Cowboy (Mac’s Record Label), continues to showcase his mature state of mind and light texture, but instead of being breezy and relaxed, he’s starting to sound actually fatigued. The music is more considerate of vibe and existing in the background than resonating with any active listener. When the songs do bubble up past mundane, as on “Choo Choo” or the back end of album closer “Baby Bye Bye,” these respites come in the form of absurdly out-of-place funk jams. Otherwise, this album is largely lethargic and bland: “On the Square” plays like stale coffee house music and the opening title track sets a rambling, mindless tone for the entire album. “All of Our Yesterdays” embodies the essence of the album, presenting everything we’ve heard from Mac DeMarco previously (chugging rhythm section, jazz-inflected guitar pattern, mildly eerie chorus riff), but in a way that’s somehow comatose. One gets the sense that Here Comes the Cowboy is the record of an artist who thinks his moment has passed.
That all said, the exhaustion on full display here may have been signaled early on by DeMarco. Here Comes the Cowboy’s release announcement came with massive backlash stemming from its similarity to Mitski’s critically acclaimed Be the Cowboy, not to mention both albums lead with a single called “Nobody.” Though it all was a coincidence, in an interview shortly after the situation transpired, DeMarco appeared to have a bit of apathy or malaise about his new music: “I’m in a place right now where I just don’t care. Even with this. I assumed this record would pop up, fly under the radar, maybe some people listen to it. I’m totally fine with that.” On one hand it’s refreshing for an artist not to dole out excessive praise for the newest record. On the other, DeMarco supplied the most apt review of his own album: it’s nothing special.