REVIEW: Mac Demarco - This Old Dog
This is a very slow album and that’s not a bad thing.
Mac starts us off with “My Old Man”, opening the album with drum machine loop, signaling a new stylistic approach to music then his former works. We find Mac reflecting on the past, contrasting himself to his dad, saying things like,“Uh Oh, looks like, I'm seeing my old man in me…” The warm acoustic guitar driven track complimented by subtle synths that come in on the hook, embraces the listener for the smooth ride.
“This Old Dog”, another acoustic guitar driven track, aided with live drums and bass, finds Mac singing about his times together with that special someone, the good and bad. The song structure is very similar to the first track.
Next we are greeted by a track more reminiscent of his most recent project “Another One”. Baby You’re Out is mainly guitar driven, with pops of synth chords that glide over the drum and bass. Mac tells us to not worry about all the negatives in your current situation, things will always turn around given time.
Onto the first synth heavy track on the LP, “For The First Time”, sees Mac very confident in experimenting in new sonic territory. A highlight of the track is how the synths, seem to glide through the track like waves of water. Mac sings about his significant other that he has been together with for some time, who he sees in a different perspective now. Singing on the hook,“It's just like seeing her...for the first time...again”.
One of the less interesting tracks, “One Another” sees the return of sonic's similar the the first two tracks, a guitar driven melody with some stabs of synths here and there to add texture. Mac speaks on a lost love who he thinks he is better off without.
But, as soon as the album begins to sound mundane, “Still Beating”, treats us to beautiful guitar melodies that glide in and out of each other, as Mac sings about how he to, like his significant other, cries when he is troubled by their relationship. The melancholy lyrics contrasted with the more mellow syrupy instrumental create an interesting dynamic that we see Mac visit consistently on this album.
Next “Sister”, one of the shorter tracks on the album, led only by a cavernous, slow, melancholy guitar line, sees Mac reminiscing about his sister.
A personal favorite, “Dreams of Yesterday” sonically, sounds straight out a sixties bossa-nova lounge, lowkey, spacious, yet very intimate in delivery. To my surprise, Mac sits perfectly over this type of instrumental. Getting straight to the point, the emotion really picks up as the long warbly synth gracefully peeks itself into the forefront of the mix while Mac asks, “So why then, are you crying? It was you...who denied them...And no amount of tears, Would roll back all the years, bring back all your dreams from yesterday”.
Unfortunately after that beauty of a track, we are witness to “A Wolf Who Wears Sheep's Clothes”, Mac Demarco’s best Bob Dylan impression. While good enough in execution, it seems out of place instrumentally on this very smooth, spacious album. Lyrically, Mac speaks on staying true to self, be weary of people you meet, don't take anything for granted.
Fortunately (and seemingly a motif of this album), Mac bounces back to deliver, “One More Love Song”, another mellow vibe, we can hear the synth and guitar blending into each other, creating a mood that is only enhanced by the strong piano chords on the hook. Here, Mac reveals his truth about relationships, they all start wonderful and you think it's going to last for forever, but most of the time end in heartbreak, knowing you spent all that time with someone you thought meant something.
The soothing high is continued into the next track “On The Level”, clearly drawing inspiration from vaporwave, or what came before it, this track finds Mac divulging his thought on his relationship between him, & his father. The combination of the strung out, wave like synth chords, complimented by Mac’s cloudy reverb soaked vocals, and the synth line that comes in on the hook, gives the track it's vaporwave aesthetic.
In an interesting turn of events, Mac continues speaking on his troubled relationship with his father via “Moonlight on the River”. A reverb soaked guitar track, with the inclusion of the sweeping synths during the hook create a cinematic quality to the track.
Probably one of the best album outros i’ve heard this year thus far, “Watching Him Fade Away” rewards the listener’s patience, ending the album with its most gorgeous synth lines, emitting similar dreamy, warm tones heard earlier in the album. Mac speaks again on his father, who he still misses even after he left him & his mother. The track encapsulates everything the album had to offer emotionally and I commend Demarco for saving it for the end. My only qualms with this album would be its inconsistencies in song quality. But fortunately, it seemed that Mac being aware of this, and used it as a strength, surprising us just as we were about to move on.
While instrumentally and lyrically this is a very different Mac Demarco, I think this is a side of him I wouldn't mind seeing develop more. The inclusion of more electronics and synths on this album, along with slower ballads, shows Demarco's growth as a musician, and artist.
Best Track(s): Dreams of Yesterday, On a Level, Watching Him Fade Away
Worst Track(s): Baby You’re Out, One Another