“Thief” by Cam Maclean: Short but Impactful Folk Song


Cam Maclean’s “Thief” is short, but sweet.

At only two minutes and forty-one seconds, “Thief” isn’t even the shortest on Maclean’s sophomore album, Secret Verses. Regardless, it’s still a lovely song, and I found myself wishing for another chorus, another verse, whatever I could get to keep it going.

This song actually reminded me of acoustic alternative music from the 90s. Stuff like Elliott Smith and artists of the like. But despite the existential nature of a lot of that stuff, this song was truly quite calming and relaxing. Maybe it had something to do with its writing and its imagery, or maybe its sound, but I’ll attribute it to both.

“This world is a mirror, turns you inward // Your reflection on a moving lake”

I talk about vivid imagery a lot. It sticks out like a sore thumb to me, especially in music, because it brings a whole new visual element to simply an audio piece. Is it just because I like pretty words? I don’t know. But anytime I can paint a visual picture in my head, I can typically deem the artist a pretty high quality songwriter. Cam Maclean certainly is worthy of this title.

“You go like a thief in the night”

I also write about simplicity a lot. I’m the type of person that can never tell when less is more in my own work but can easily distinguish it in others’. While the hook is just the one line, it creates some form of closure that someone is leaving with seemingly no remorse. You can’t help but to feel someone tugging at your heartstrings a little.

It’s interesting, though; the song’s chorus doesn’t feel sad. It actually sounds reminiscent of a smooth, slow-dance ballad, despite its lyrics portraying the sheer opposite. There’s a contrast present that makes you unsure what to feel, so you just are forced to take in the song’s melancholy tone and just kinda listen. It’s theoretically a bummer, but it’s pretty cool.

One thing I’ll say is that I know next to nothing about music theory. I can play F-sharp on the guitar, but I couldn’t tell you any science about chord progressions or anything like that. With that, I can say that compositional decisions don’t present themselves to me.

In this particular case, though, I thought “Thief” had some really nice and unique melodies. Sometimes he takes his voice somewhere slightly unexpected (you know how sometimes you can sorta predict lyrics and melodies as they come? Just me? Well…), but in a way that made me think back to the previous line and go, “woah, that was pretty cool!” And it has nothing to do with the phenomenon where you may be listening to something and thinking, “well, they clearly didn’t come up with a good melody – they’re just kinda winging it as they go.” Again, maybe that’s just me who does that. I really don’t know.

And once again, I can’t explain it in theoretical terms. You may just have to take my word for it.

Either way, if you’re looking for some relaxing, reflective indie-folk music, look no further than Cam Maclean’s “Thief.” You’ll find yourself wishing for more (which exists – on Secret Verses!) and pondering lots of stuff. But in a good way.


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