Mac DeMarco releases new album, shows maturity and varies his style

by Caroline Favret, ’18

Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco is back with a new album, titled “This Old Dog.”  Demarco is known for his quirky persona and laid-back music style, which shines through on his hit albums “2” and “Salad Days.”  

This Old Dog, however, shows a more mature side of the now 26-year-old.  The album is less energetic than others, with acoustic guitar and synths taking prominence over bass lines and guitar melodies, and at first glance appears to be only suitable for falling asleep to on a warm day.  Lyrically, however, it’s far more reflective and darker than he’s been, and tells a complete story versus other work he’s done, which can feel haphazard.   

The first track is “My Old Man”, followed by “This Old Dog”, which start the thread that continues through the album, highlighting issues with his father, who abandoned his mother while he was still young.  He sings “Uh-oh, looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me,” as DeMarco is scared of aging and becoming like his old man.

If you’re looking for a more uplifting song on the album, “For the First Time” is it.  The tune is reminiscent of “Chamber of Reflection”.  He pairs keyboard synthesizers with a steady beat, crooning to the lost love of his life.

The middle of this album was slow and blends together, with “Sister” being most memorable at only 1:18 long. It’s nostalgic, more happy than sad, and the type of song you’d listen to with a half-smile.

Thankfully, this album finishes strong.  “A Wolf Who Wears Sheep’s Clothes” is notable.  It’s refreshing to hear a harmonica in the background, as he draws on some 1970s influences. The title is a biblical allusion to a person being deceptive, and the song emphasizes not letting troubles and dishonest people get you down.  

“On the Level” is another short track, with a synth driven melody accompanied by drums, giving a psychedelic feeling to the song.  The lyrics, in classic DeMarco style, don’t have any extra fluff to them.  He sings “Make an old man proud of you / Forget about the tears,” which again is about his father, and brings back the “old man” piece from the first track.  In contrast to “On the Level” is “Moonlight on the River.”  It has a dreamy, effervescent vibe to it and is slightly heartbreaking.  A whole seven minutes of the album is devoted to this song.  There’s an interesting instrumental section at around the 5 minute mark, which ends up sounding like a cacophony of sounds with DeMarco cackling over it — definitely a can’t miss section, but will be either loved or hated.

Overall, this album blended together.  Vocally, he sounds at his best, and his sound has developed past using the same instruments across albums.  The narrative of “This Old Dog” ties up with the last track, featuring lyrics like “And even though we barely know each other / It still hurts watching him fade away.”  Even though he and his father aren’t in contact, the loss of a relative will and can be painful.  Listeners will be left with a feeling of resolution, or perhaps a tinge of sadness because of the weight of these lyrics.  

This isn’t a go-to if you’re looking for the happy-go-lucky DeMarco of “Salad Days”, but is a strong 7/10 for an alt-indie rock album.  The songs most worth listening two are actually the two shortest, “Sister” and “On the Level”, with “A Wolf Who Wears Sheep’s Clothes” and “My Old Man” also among the top songs.