THIS OLD DOG by Mac DeMarco
Genre: Singer/Songwriter, Indie Pop
Favorite Tracks: “This Old Dog,” “Baby You’re Out,” “Dreams Of Yesterday,” “One Another,” “On The Level” “Moonlight On The River,”
These days, in style and persona, Mac DeMarco has shifted from that rambunctious stray he was when the world’s eye looked upon him five years ago; now he’s a familiar face who has proven himself to be much more a disciple of Jonathan Richman, rather than the GG Allin foreshadowed by his early years. After a half decade of merciless touring and recording, and now recently having moved from New York to Los Angeles, DeMarco has certainly earned his time to actually be the slacker he is so often portrayed to be. His latest, THIS OLD DOG, solidifies that sentiment, with a collection of DeMarco’s most engaging and endearing work to date.
At the heart of THIS OLD DOG is a cool, calm kind of restraint in both instrumentation and overall composition that is unexpected following SALAD DAYS mainstream blowup. Humble, organic movements in composition, from mania to afterglow to hangover, and so forth, at unpredictable yet delightful junctures, result in an exciting, wholesome feel for the record as a whole. DeMarco’s range of stylistic motion, in combination with a medium tempo and hearty, clear sense of space presented on THIS OLD DOG, keeps any one feeling from overstaying its welcome, while simultaneously giving each moment its time to breathe. To give a sense of the record’s pacing, the first track is the longest until the 10th, starting one on a woozy, dreamlike path—as if hurried on a trail because dusk is approaching—climaxing in the seven-minute delay-noise freak-out, “Moonlight On The River.” Even as tracks like “One Another” and “Sister,” coyly inverse songs from Mac’s back catalog, they provide a reprieve and reference amidst the murkier “For The First Time,” “Still Beating,” and “Dreams From Yesterday.” In classic Mac fashion, album closer, “Watching Him Fade Away,” leaves little to mull over, wrapping up much of the sonic pallet of the record with a minimal, tender synth line and poignant final statement, omitting any hidden message to the fans like those included on past records.
Even with DeMarco’s relatively traditional taste in instrumentation, THIS OLD DOG remains his most sonically diverse record to date, building stylistically on ANOTHER ONE and its demo’s intimacy, SOME OTHER ONES’ synthy experimentation, and SALAD DAYS’ catchy, dissonant hooks. “Baby You’re Out” and “A Wolf Who Wears Sheep’s Clothes” bring us to distinctly new territory for DeMarco’s LP sound, being driven by curvy, mellow synths and a refreshing guitar-harmonica jig respectively. On the other hand, tracks like “One More Love Song,” “On The Level,” and “This Old Dog” are sweetly produced distillations of the more familiar sounds in his catalog, and manage to avoid redundancy yet.
THIS OLD DOG succeeds most in its restrained balance between the glittery and the Garson, in its humble percussion, and its raw, chewy acoustic guitar guided by DeMarco’s jovial sense of voice and melody—never repeating too much of what’s been said so far, yet retaining a familiarity that is so often lost at this stage in an artist’s career. There’s no honest way to say this is going to be his best, or last good album—yet it’s proved to be a quality place to rest for the time being, without excess or lull.