Mac just keeps growing up on us...
Here's what we know about Mac DeMarco. One, it feels natural to call him Mac because he's one of the most transparent artists of our day, if not the most. Do you know of any other budding star that's ended an album by sharing their home address and inviting fans over for a cup of joe? Let alone actually making good on the offer? Mac DeMarco is your favorite musician, your teen idol, and most importantly – your friend.
We also know that his songwriting has become more personal since his third album, Salad Days. Songs like "Passing Out Pieces", "Chamber of Reflection", and "Brother" give us insight to an artist that, despite his serendipitous-slacker persona, is a sensitive guy with insecurities like the rest of us. In a recent Pitchfork feature, Mac's mother says that she cries every time she hears her son's music. She also calls him beautiful and admit's there's a deep sense of sadness in his songs.
Beginning with Salad Days, Mac also introduced the use of synthesizers in his work to great affect. Tyler the Creator called the keyboard led, "Chamber of Reflection", Mac's best song to date and any view or streaming count will attest to the song's massive appeal. Another One, an 8 song EP, followed Salad Days and displayed Mac working on his harmonizing and vocal abilities to really own a sincere songwriter touch. By this point, it was getting easier to see Mac's music evolving from catchy slacker-rock, or jizz jazz as he calls it, to more serious songs with a timeless quality.
Between Another One and This Old Dog, Mac released a cover of Prince's "It's Gonna Be Lonely", a touching tribute to the purple one, and James Taylor's "I Was A Fool To Care". After hearing the direction of Another One and both cover songs, it became clear that DeMarco believes in his ability to write like a classic songwriter with pop appeal, and This Old Dog is evidence of such maturity and skill.
Unsurprisingly, Mac ended up moving from his well-known New York address and ended up in L.A for the final touches of This Old Dog. The album's initial press release stated that he unintentionally tried to emulate Neil Young's Harvest album but with a synthesizer twist – Mac calls This Old Dog his, "acoustic album, thought it's not really acoustic at all". This was also the first time he held on to demos and was able to really develop the songs before releasing an album.
So what happens when Mac takes his time? This Old Dog features DeMarco's most dynamic and affective songwriting to date, as we hear songs with extreme optimism and his saddest, most complex arrangements. "Moonlight on the River" serves as the latter and is also Mac's longest recorded song on an album. It's simultaneously eerie and beautiful, in a unique Mac way, as he contemplates the reality that every life will have an end on this earth. The Pink Floyd-esque outro is a true work of art and feels like the soundtrack to Salvador Dali's painting, The Persistence of Memory.
The closing track, "Watching Him Fade Away", is about Mac's father who left the family at a young age. "And even though we barely know each other, it still hurts, watching him fade away." The apparent pain in those words, as he sings them, is tender. It helps us understand that perhaps a lot of Demarco's heartache comes from not having a father-figure in his life. But true to the dynamic nature of the album, things come full circle as his feeling of loss is juxtaposed with the realization that we inevitably inherit traits from our parents, as Mac playfully bemoans in "My Old Man". Mac's honesty should mean a lot to his fan base, which greatly consists of adoring teenagers. Expressing a love/hate relationship with your old man, as well as growing up in a single parent home, only makes Mac DeMarco more relatable and beloved – not that he needs much more of that. You might even find This Old Dog to be the acoustic companion to Kendrick Lamar's DAMN....maybe. Like DAMN., it has plenty of substance and ends with a sentimental song about his father, which is an interesting similarity. That's only to say that Mac Demarco has released something of great worth with This Old Dog. As a fan who isn't an adoring teenager, I have to say, thanks for sharing, Mac, 'cause we need a guy like you making music.