Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco first broke onto the international music scene with 2012’s mini LP, Rock and Roll Nightclub. Since then, he’s risen to prominence for the signature slacker rock sound honed on successive releases. DeMarco tends to combine wry, unexpectedly thoughtful lyrics with simple composition, creating the perfect soundtrack for hazy summer days.
However, his newest release marks a change of tone in the musician’s career. Here, the music is more pared back and has a new melancholy edge. It would seem that the 27-year-old is eager to show fans how he has matured, both as a songwriter and an individual. Significantly, however, DeMarco fails to deliver any significant sonic evolution from previous releases Another One or Salad Days. While established fans will surely be comforted by this, one can’t help but notice how derivative tracks from This Old Dog are of his previous hits.
DeMarco’s screwball on-stage persona, rather than his music necessarily, has won him legions of fans and perhaps This Old Dog is the singer’s attempt to redress this, to stress his musical chops and tone-down the lovable antics. Indeed, the song A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothes seems to address this explicitly with the line “Just trying to keep it light sometimes casts a shadow”, suggesting how the singer has struggled with being indie music’s joyful jester. A notable development is the album’s more serious tone, with singles launching into matters of the heart with melancholic control. Two crucial relationships drive the songwriting process: one with a long-term partner and one with his long-absent father.
Notably, with lines like; “Oh no, looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me”, My Old Man deals with the time-honored fear that, despite your best efforts, in the end you’ll become just like your parents. While he may be tackling meatier subject matter than on earlier releases, the musical aspects of the album are more pared-back with most songs being played on no more than an acoustic guitar and a drum machine. However, there are still moments of spontaneity with the harmonica on A Wolf Who Wears Sheeps Clothes and the unexpected falsetto chorus on One More Love Song.
Despite being somewhat reminiscent of earlier material, Mac DeMarco delivers a tight third album with a new sombre edge, deliberating on the trials of growing up and coming into one’s own.
Mac DeMarco’s new album This Old Dog was released on May 5th via Captured Tracks.