6 May 2017

Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog (album review)

For me, Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV’s (Mac DeMarco) sound brings about an almost nostalgic feeling. Salad Days was constantly playing during my summer in 2014. His soothingly woozy guitar tone soundtracked my post-college days, during a summer, that essentially consisted of fuck all apart from music, alcohol and another brilliant performance from England at a World Cup.

The Canadian’s debut full-length album, 2, was released to rave reviews, producing country-like guitar riffs on Cooking Up Something Good, while deploying his deadpan delivery over unsettling pop-ballads such as My Kind Of Woman. What followed was the release of Salad Days, where DeMarco’s slacker attitude remained solid on his second album, and it also included his best release to date; the brilliantly dark, synth-driven Chamber Of Reflection.

DeMarco’s next venture was to release Another One, a mini-album that portrayed less emphasis on the commercial side of things, but generally showed no major signs of moving away from the sound that had made him so popular. Still, like on his previous albums, he provided us with wonderfully calm melodies that were just way to easy too get stoned to.

So, would Mac provide us with more of the same on his new album ‘This Old Dog’, or was it time for a new direction? Album opener My Old Man indicates that DeMarco decides it might be time for a slight shift in styles. It’s an acoustic-led ballad that reflects on his difficult relationship with his father, with lyrics such as: “It seems like i’m seeing more of my old man in me.”

Title track This Old Dog, again acoustic-heavy, is the more delicate of the album’s two singles, and like on the opener, and on previous albums, DeMarco seems to be touching on difficulties in his personal life, deploying lyrics such as: “As long as my hearts beating in my chest, this old dog ain’t about to forget.”

For The First Time is a synth-laden number reminiscent of Ariel Pink, and DeMarco seems to be craving aspects of his past in the low-wailing-synthesized Dreams From Yesterday, revealing: “No amount of tears, could bring back all the years.” Either that or he’s absolutely gutted about turning 27. Toms and a deep baseline are met by harmonica, that combines nicely with a less enthusiastic Freaking Out The Neighbourhood riff - on A Wolf Who Wears Sheeps Clothes, where Mac is lamenting someone’s two-faced persona.

The drum machine is painfully tight on One More Love Song, with the name of the track providing the only example of the comedic value that Mac has been known for. He also goes higher than usual in this track, which is a nice change from his deadpan delivery which occupies the majority of the album. There are shades of Chamber of Reflection on the contemplative On The Level, with DeMarco expressing a desire to please his father with the curdled synthesiser melody; “Make an old man proud of you, Forget about your tears.”

Acoustic again takes centre stage on the seven-minute Moonlight on The River, which distributes a deep base line and glistening guitar. The end of the track enters into a dark wishy-washy state of bouncy effects pedals that’ll have you craving Blur’s Beetlebum.  DeMarco this time applies keys to the album's - again subdued and delicate - closing track Watching Him Fade Away, which provides one of the records high points with an alluring melody and slightly guilt-ridden lyrics.

Because of the state of the current musical climate, it’s hard to criticise DeMarco, a man who has provided us with some of the best tracks that indie has had to offer in the last few years, and Like Another One, This Old Dog is another sign Mac might be done with joking around on the lyrical side of things. The Canadian’s melodies again remain delightfully calming, but at the end of the day, despite the acoustic being more prominent, you won’t find anything too different from previous releases here. Unfortunately, DeMarco doesn't quite hit the heights that 2 and Salad Days managed to reach; slightly disappointingly being on a closer level to Another One.


(Words: Joe Forte)