Release Date: 5/5/2017
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, apparently, no one told Mac DeMarco.
Now I’m not saying Mac DeMarco is old, he’s 27, but with his fifth LP he marks a shift from the old style of Salad Days and 2. Usually, DeMarco’s “Jizz Jazz” style has its shortcomings when it comes to the room for creativity, but he chose to depart from the style just slightly. DeMarco seems to have shifted from focusing on the jangling guitars and instrumentation to focusing on lyrics.
Yes, This Old Dog is much softer in comparison to the previous works of Mac DeMarco, but that does not make it any less ___. You can fill in the blank with anything you like about him as an artist: Enjoyable, Charismatic, etc. DeMarco came out with his most cohesive, well-written, emotional album.
When I talk about “well-written”, I mean that the album fits a theme and sticks to it for the entire album. DeMarco writes about his alcoholic father and how he abandoned him when he was five years old and, afterwards, about his death and what it meant. DeMarco created a very listenable album with language that does not seem like it could be misconstrued in any way. For example, you can look at the first track of the album, “My Old Man”, and see that the song is about him expressing fear of becoming who his dad was.
There’s no language within the song that could make you think that there is anything else he could be singing about. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because it helps DeMarco stick to the theme he set out and allows everyone see the theme. DeMarco also carries it on throughout the entire album with songs that just seem to get progressively sadder until we reach the final track “Watching Him Fade Away” where he reflects on the fact that he ignored his father’s attempts to reconnect with him.
There’s a visible progression in tone from the light “Baby You’re Out” and “One Another” to the sad “Moonlight on the River” and “Watching Him Fade Away”.
Looking at This Old Dog from the perspective of production, Mac DeMarco to have one of the most varied albums that he has ever created. The album goes from synth heavy songs like “On The Level” and “For The First Time” to dad-rock-esque songs like “A Wolf Who Wears Sheeps Clothes” and “One Another” to minimalist songs like “Watching Him Fade Away” and “Sister” to normal Mac DeMarco songs (as if they could be on 2) like “Still Beating” and “One More Love Song”. DeMarco makes a more acoustic album (giving it a somewhat older feel), and includes charming bits of drum machines at their best. The production is smooth and easily digested. Overall, the songs are catchy, varied, and include some of the most deliberately layered production I have seen from DeMarco.
There are a few problems I had with this album, though. Some of the songs start to sound the same when you’re going through the album. Mac DeMarco doesn’t really vary the candor of his vocals much throughout, and it causes some of the songs to sound similar to each other. Accompanied by the consistent tone of voice, the instrumentals of some of the songs cause the album to be very monotonous and sleepy. Also, one song, “Sister”, seems to be a bit unfinished.
Overall, I really liked this album. I was wavering on whether or not to give this album a 6 or a 7. I would like to put it on the record that I deliberated for a long time on that subject and it was/is not easy for me to decide. I wish I could give a 6.5, but luckily, 6.5 rounds up to a 7 and I really like math. In regards to albums, I cannot wait for what Mac DeMarco has in store for “Another One”. I hope he goes into a “Chamber of Reflection” and starts “Cooking Up Something Good”. I wouldn’t want to begin “Watching Him Fade Away”, because that would start “Freaking Out the Neighborhood”. All kidding aside, if he creates something that’s “On the Level” of this album in the future, I think Mac DeMarco (New King of Dad Rock) will have a long and illustrious career. (Don’t kill me for writing that paragraph)
Favorite songs: One Another, Moonlight on the River, Watching Him Fade Away
Least Favorite Songs: Sister