Recommend if you like: Sufjan Stevens, The Drums, Damon Albarn

Expectation: Mac DeMarco is an Canadian singer-songwriter known for his extremely laid back approach to psychedelic rock (to the extent that he is often described as a folk singer instead, despite building his signature sound from electric guitars and synthesizers). This Old Dog is DeMarco’s 3rd LP, following his 2014 breakthrough Salad Days.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

  • My Old Man – The gentle, tapping percussion was a great decision, Mac’s characteristic just-flat notes make an appearance in the synths, and the guitar riff ties the whole song together without becoming overbearing.
  • This Old Dog – More in the style of his past work, though still within the distinctly separate instrumental palette, presenting an interesting middle ground between the two sounds.
  • Baby You’re Out – Mac incorporates a bit of country influence into his sound and the result is all good feelings.
  • For the First Time – Another of Mac’s sleepy, synth heavy ballads; not bad, but somewhat out of place.
  • One Another – Another country-tinged track, and even better than the last.
  • Still Beating – The interplay of the two guitars is hypnotic, while everything else in the song maintains a perfect groove.
  • Sister – A soft, simple track which is easy on the ears and just barely long enough to leave an impression.
  • Dreams From Yesterday – While I love DeMarco’s use of woozy flat notes typically, the long drone that appears twice in this song is just wears the commodity by the end.
  • A Wolf Who Wears Sheeps Clothes – As straightforward a folk song as you will ever hear. Not bad though.
  • One More Love Song – Love everything about this song. The soft electric guitar chords, the way piano and harmonies kick in together at the chorus, the gentle, washed out guitar solo after the first chorus. Quite possibly my favorite song Mac DeMarco has made yet.
  • On the Level – There are great ideas happening in the rhythm section throughout this song, but the synth line completely steals the show.
  • Moonlight on the River – The longest song, as well as the most chaotic, but the timing in the tracklist couldn’t be better. Any sooner and the dissonant elements could have came off harshly, while ending such a mellow album with a chaotic crescendo would have felt inappropriate.
  • Watching Him Fade Away – While I can’t see myself listening to this song on its own, I love it as the closer here (and thank God that DeMarco resisted the urge to fade out while singing “watching him fade away…”

Overall: This record wasn’t guaranteed to work; there is always a measure of risk when an artist moves away from their signature sound, and a folk singer experimenting with acoustic guitar doesn’t exactly build hype on its own. Fortunately, Mac DeMarco knows exactly where he’s going and why; he hasn’t abandoned his old sound, his music has simply grown with him. His melodies feel more concise, as does the instrumentation; Mac DeMarco is still the chillest guy around, but his tone is a bit sweeter when the flat notes are used with restraint. I’m glad DeMarco is continuing to progress, and I can’t wait to see where he will take his sound next.

Score: 7.5/10

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