Mac Demarco’s third album feels, at first listen, muted and a little safe. But when we compare it to his back catalogue, it is quite experimental. Most of the woozy guitar effects have been shown the door and Demarco has discovered how to communicate his distinctive “slacker rock” style in a more acoustic and chilled out way. Released on a beautiful sunny day here in Ireland, I welcomed this change as much as I did the weather! The album certainly did not disappoint from the excellent singles “My Old Man” and “This Old Dog” and there are stand out tracks studded all throughout. While the wavy psychedelic sounds on “2” and “Salad Days” are what made Mac Demarco unique, I think that “This Old Dog” is a healthy progression and displays a new side to the singer, showcasing his lyrical skills.
“My Old Man” and “This Old Dog” start the album on an upbeat tone musically, really displaying the acoustic theme that links up with the rest of the tracks. Lyrically, the themes are positive. We see pearls of wisdom being shared and it’s clear that Demarco is being reflective of his personal life and relationships and has been able to channel this reflection through his lyrics.
Moving on to “Baby You’re Out” which combines satisfying chord changes with slightly goofy vocals. This third song is packed full of energy and fun and contrasts slightly with our next song “For The First Time”. This track slows us down a bit, and is more in keeping with his older stuff, reintroducing that jangling keyboard that’s so easy on the ear.
“One Another” takes us back in the time machine and induces 60’s style finger-snapping and toe-tapping on every back beat. “Still Beating” would be my personal favourite track as it marks the turning point for the tone of the album. The lyrics are more tinged with sadness and again we have another delicious, tingling chord progression to add to the collection.
Our shortest track, “Sister”, is just over a minute long but offers a lot from Demarco in the vocal department. There’s a more raspy quality introduced to his voice that really drives the emotional theme of the song. “Dreams From Yesterday” uses tropical percussion and wavy keyboard sounds to create a very chilled atmosphere that reminded me slightly of elevator music. Each to their own I suppose?
We have a new range of instrumental work in “A Wolf Who Wears Sheep’s Clothing” with some deeper drum beats and a surprise harmonica. Mac is really demonstrating his own musical ability here as well as slightly venturing outside his genre into a more country rock/ Bruce Springsteen vibe.
Our next two tracks are very typical of Demarco and are probably the least exciting of the album. It is as if he gave up on being experimental or was afraid of people’s reaction to the change in his music and so threw in “One More Love Song”and “On The Level” as consolation prizes. We’ve got lyrically beautiful songs here that are obstructed by his usual clattering keyboard notes and glimmering guitar work.
“Moonlight on the River” is a dark and complex song but is easy on the ears at the same time with its swirling, almost liquid like synth lines. It would have been a better way to play out the album over “Watching Him Fade Away” in my opinion as it would leave us with a malevolent twist and cacophony that would contrast nicely with the rest of the album. “Watching Him Fade Away” is another lyrical gem and definitely deserves a place on the album, perhaps not as thematic a final song as “Moonlight” would be however.
Mac Demarco has produced an excellent body of work and contrary to popular opinion, I enjoy the change in his work. I admire an artist who can take their work and twist it around to suit their creative thoughts at that period of time. “This Old Dog” could be a permanent change or a once off experiment, either way it is a very complete and polished album that I took pleasure in listening to. Props to you Mac.
Listen to the album on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/6XzoFb3hP14jVQeCMRdVJR
Thanks for reading and bye for now!