“This Old Dog” is Mac DeMarco’s third proper release on full-length, released on 5th May via Captured Tracks. We left the Canadian songwriter three years ago with the mellow “Salad Days”. It was written between Los Angeles, where he recently moved to, and Brooklyn, but the happening doesn’t seem to affect the record at all.
In the first place, Mac is surely one of the biggest jungle pop acts around nowadays, known for his charisma and his very pleasant and entertaining live performances. Despite one is led to think that the jizz jazzer is all about chilling and smoking his beloved cigarettes, with “This Old Dog” Mac proves he’s more than that, publishing his most intimate and bitter record up to now.
2017’s DeMarco almost resembles a wise singer who speaks from the heart and suggests you how to approach life in a soft, thoughtful and melancholic manner, less dazed than you’d expect from the Canadian Pepperoni Playboy. On top of that, he shows his true color addressing personal issues at a deeper level than ever. “Sometimes I’m goofy and sometimes I’m not. I’m just a human,” he says. His intentions are clear: Mac wants you to take a slow look at some of his personal stories and wants you to gently move your head while listening to his trademark wistful sparks. Simpler and more real than ever. Therefore, “This Old Dog” betrays the awareness of someone who entered a more mature phase of his youth and in the light of his experience he opens to the world with aware yet optimistic eyes. It still sounds relaxed but there’s a hint of sorrow which was barely present in Mac DeMarco music.
Lyrically, as mentioned above, “This Old Dog” sounds definitely more mature. He basically goes straight to the point in whatever he sings about, smooth and soft. Leit motivs are the huge role that experience plays in life, the inevitable mistakes everybody is bound to, since they’re inherent in life, and the fact that aging is unavoidable. “Look in the mirror, Who do you see? Someone familiar, But surely not me”. However, there are words of sweet hope which come out of his mouth with a slackness similar to Elliot Smith’s.
The whole work is a climax, which starts with “This Old Dog” and ends with the tender “Moonlight On The River” and “Watching Him Fade Away”, where the dynamics of his father-son relation is well painted by the Canadian songwriter. As a matter of fact, Mac’s apathy towards his absent father creates a sense of confusion in the listener: How do you say goodbye to someone who’s never been there for you?
Soundwise , we have very dominant acoustic guitars. Up to now, the crafting process consisted in a puzzle box of melodies that worked well together. “This Old Dog” is delivered to the listener straight from Mac’s hands on acoustic guitar, little by little, whereas he’d always been bangin’ out tracks to turn them into albums in a short period of time. The work is quite skeletal, no sounds redundancy, everything is kept essential, as goes for the synths for example, and it works very well on the whole. Note that music itself doesn’t’ withdraw much from his previous works though, there’s no room for unusual experimentations. The record is pleasing to the ears and, even though there aren’t true peaks, it still proposes a very well balanced and involving atmosphere, allowing the listener into a thought-provoking, but yet chilled, state of contemplation. A few changes take place, production-wise. Less lo-fi and shinier than “2” and “Salad Days”, choice which enhances lyrics in an attempt at writing engaging, relaxed folk songs.
Mac DeMarco once again proves to be capable of getting the attention of the listener from the very first track, setting the mood for 13 tracks fluidly linked together. Even though there is no major development since his last work, and this is still not considerable as his “mature record” as an artist (but rather a unique work in his discography), “This Old Dog” remains a solid record well worth a listen and represents one of his best shots.