Favorite Tracks: “On the Square”, “Finally Alone”, “Nobody”
Mac DeMarco has become something close to a saint in the chill indie pop/rock scene. His guitar sounds have redefined the world of dream pop, and his influence is now everywhere to be seen, with many budding guitarists trying to emulate or outright copy his style. Nevertheless, DeMarco’s style has drastically changed from the days of “2” and “Salad Days”, with the jangle sound culminating in 2015 with “Another One”.
With his latest release “Here Comes the Cowboy”, DeMarco continues moving away from the dreamy sound that has come to define him. The influences of “This Old Dog” are heard clearly on his new release, with many of the songs featured much more honest instrumentation and stripped back songs compared to much of his earlier work. In fact, you could say that the approach of this album is almost too simple at times. Songs such as the title track and “Choo Choo” have one or two lines of lyrics and repeat the same melody and chords for 2 minutes. The same applies to the closing track “Baby Bye Bye”, even though its quirky instrumentation is enjoyable. The hidden track featured on the song features a squeeling vocal with guitars similar to “Choo Choo”, similar enough to sound like a reused riff. All of these tracks seem to be at best, filler and at worst, lazy.
Looking to the rest of the album, most of the songs are typical Mac. “Nobody” features a similar riff with sparse insturmentation, and some synth sweetner. “Finally Alone” is the most upbeat song on the album, featuring some woodblock taps reminisenct of much of “This Old Dog”. DeMarco also features his falsetto on the refrain, which at least gives some interesting to the consistent instrumentation. “Heart to Heart” sounds like it could have fit on 2015s “Another One” if given a little bit more distortion. The keys and synth tie the song together and give it the chill, icy effect that much of DeMarco’s music seems to have.
Overall, DeMarco is an artist that has never had trouble defining his own sound. The problem he has is making his sound and his songs different from each other. The transitions between songs feel seemless because most of the album sounds the same. Now, I get that once an artist finds a formula, they might milk it to exhaustion. In order to keep the main melody the same throughout the entire song, an artist has to do something else to spice things up. A song that does this with at least a tinge of originality is “On the Square”, which features multiple showcases of DeMarco’s synth prowness, while also keeping the main melody as consistent as a metronome. DeMarco’s less-than-public breakup with his former label, Captured Tracks, was said to be due to the label infringing upon DeMarco’s creative process. With a new subsidary on Universal Music Group and supposed full creative control, it’s no surprise to ask whether some of these tracks should have been left on the cutting room floor.