Hey Cowboy! embraces the synth in synth-pop. There’s no guitar in the Austin-based trio, made up of Gaby Rodriguez on drums, Sydney Harding-Sloan on synths and Micah Vargas on bass. Instead, they craft dream-like landscapes reliant on lush synths and ethereal harmonies. Hey Cowboy! balances the melancholy and playful. Look no further than the title of their new album — Get in my Fanny Pack and Let’s Go — for a taste of the band’s whimsical spirit.
The album kicks off with a reimagining of the 1970 Lee Hazlewood song that’s the band’s namesake. With captivating harmonies, the trio delivers the opening “Heyyy cowboy” with a coy wink. The western motif gets another moment in the sun on “Detective Farmer Brown” with a warbly chant of “cowboy” that gives way to an insistent drum beat punctuated by shouts. On “Hello, Mr. Nasty,” lively chants of bubblegum kisses cascade between lilting ahh’s and almost punk-like shrieks.
The trio writes simple, repetitive hooks that create dizzying earworms. On “Feelin’ For,” the lyrics bleed together like a sacred spell — the words themselves may not matter much; it’s the intonation that gives them meaning. And Harding-Sloan’s vocals seem tailor-made for their atmospherics. On the standout track, “Cherry Jerry Citrus” (released on last year’s EP), her voice floats above the rhythms and rippling liquid synths. Distant half-spoken harmonies round out the trance-like effect.
Songs do tend to wander. Hey Cowboy! seems fond of switching the script within the same track, like the intensifying drum beats that kick in halfway through “Try……….die”, until washing away. “Don’t Even Know” starts off with the focus on vocals, but chirping synth notes and drums gradually build to create an otherworldly daze.
The album loses momentum in the second half — selections like “Queen Cactus” meander. But for an album that experiments with an eclectic synth sound and covers everything from ominous ‘70s sci-fi movie soundtracks to sunshiny psych, it’s a cohesive piece of work right down to its careful blending of tracks. Assuming you’re game for a journey in the titular fanny pack, Hey Cowboy! isn’t too concerned with a hasty ride into the sunset. There’s too much else worth exploring on the way there.
Review by Annie Lyons, KUTX Intern