Strange how this music thing goes about its business. As the old adage goes, “One day you’re at the top, the next they want you to fall”, okay, I’m not sure that is a direct quote but you get my meaning. The quick turnaround from ‘hot’ to ‘not’ can be as speedy as the song that put you there. Mac DeMarco is currently teetering on the edge. Mac, fittingly, doesn’t seem to care.
I can already hear the nuanced connoisseurs of music trying to tell me otherwise, trying to yell that they want the old Mac back, they want the troubadour stuck in the gutter back, they want what they can’t have, essentially. But for me, another new album from Mac DeMarco, the goofball king of indie (a title which harms him more than he knows), means another Sunday afternoon sorted.
Long past are the dark days of Rock and Roll Nightclub, DeMarco has grown and moved his best moments from the underbelly of greasy Friday nights to the gleaming sun of a porch on Sunday afternoon. This Old Dog is his most laid back album yet, but in many ways his most stark.
Slacker rock has taken a bit of a battering recently. It feels too lightweight in the current climate, it feels a little too easily done and without the right feeling behind it the Slacker Rock, which Mac made mainstream, can be easily dismissed.
But Mac is fighting back without throwing a single punch as this album gets all floaty on the strong winds of two themes; love and family. The imperious emotion of love streams through almost every song on the 13-track album. ‘For The First Time’ is DeMarco at his cheesiest; synthy-balladry marks every note and the lyrics are a little ‘chocolate box’ sweet, but it still seems to ring true.
This Old Dog even shows off his incredible genre-spanning sound. Not happy with being labelled as a one-trick pony, ‘A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing’ has harmonica and guitar fighting for the spotlight while ‘One More Love Song’ gets all funk and soul.
But where the album really gets interesting is when Mac looks at his own life. Written before and recorded after his cross-country move from Queens to Los Angeles the LP has given the man-boy a chance to reflect on something he could never truly grasp. Family.
One of these struggles is best seen on ‘My Old Man’, which feels rugged and authentic and conveys Mac’s overarching love for the father he never truly knew, even if he is turning in to him. While final track ‘Watching Him Fade Away’ sees DeMarco take on his father’s influence or lack thereof in a very stark, vulnerable and beautiful way. The warped organs and tender vocals say everything they need to.
In truth the album shows Mac at his most polished musically and most clouded emotionally. It gives the listener the chance to really hear DeMarco, not the interview version. The transitional period of his life; from boy to man, is happening in front of the audience’s eyes and ears.
This Old Dog is moving, veracious and sultry whilst also giving enough sunshine to make the day feel golden whenever you drop the needle on it.
Luckily, the ears now have their appetite sated as much as the eyes. A persona no more, Mac has become an artist again.