Mac DeMarco isn’t necessarily well known for introspective, minimalist, emotional tunes. His aura of disgust is what his critics peg him for, boxing him in as a stoner-alt music maker for the art school dropouts listening on their Urban Outfitters record players. But on his third album, the actual musician Mac exits his bodily persona and mutes the silliness his fans know him for. He’s better than his reputation gives him credit for, and This Old Dog could be the radical turnaround that on-the-fencers like myself have been waiting for.
His influences are wide-ranging and muted, with subtle notes of Paul McCartney on “My Old Man,” and John Denver in “Hey Kids.” The whole album is a super sensory, at times seeming like homage to the sun-soaked pop tunes of the 1970s, with that made-for-vinyl feel. At times, there are folksy notes with solid harmonica skills that make me want to start chanting “Davy Crockett” in the chorus (and I mean that as the highest compliment). The tunes are generally fairly simple with bright bass lines (a shift from the more jazz based prior albums) and gentle guitar progressions, but that doesn’t mean lazy. It’s just absolutely minimalist. The music is more a platform for DeMarco’s most lyrical, romantic, and meaningful lyrics yet. It’s as if he’s giving us the space to notice how mature he is on this album and the minimalism gives us the space to be surprised. A true standout in this department is “Moonlight on the River,” with DeMarco discussing the inevitability of the future.
The whole album feels colloquial, like you’re having a chat with the hairdresser or the bartender. I credit this largely to the fact that DeMarco is a masterful recorder, playing each part on the album, so every inch of it is infused with his sparse pop-sweetness, all devoid of cliché. His fans might find this album less comfortable, less witty, or less silly. To those of you who weren’t quite sure about him before, this album will convert you fully. For fans new and old, the best part is hearing DeMarco making himself very comfortable and welcoming us all into the intimacy of his thoughts.
Standouts include heartfelt “Sister,” the melancholy beauty of “For the First Time,” and the plucky “Still Beating.”
Words: Haley Velletri