On his newest album This Old Dog, Mac DeMarco retains all of his beloved familiarity and warmth, but also reveals to us his deeper side through more personal lyrics. Some of the tunes are more upbeat, some are a bit slower, but all are catchy, endearing and showcase DeMarco’s remarkable song writing.
Throughout the album we get a range of all our favourite DeMarco styles, plus a couple new ones. His notorious jangly guitar can still be heard in songs such as “Still Beating” and “One Another”, and his funky synthesiser resonates out in songs such as “One More Love Song” and “For the First Time”, but we also hear more use of the acoustic guitar, as in the song “My Old Man”, and even harmonica in “A Wolf Who Wears Sheep’s Clothes”. He’s stayed true to his style; he’s just polished it up a bit, like giving something a new coat of paint.
In the song “Cooking Up Something Good” from the album 2, DeMarco sings “My brother’s in the ballet”, which is true; his brother really is in the ballet – an art which requires a tremendous amount of discipline. But I think in his newest album DeMarco has proved that he too is disciplined in his trade. Of course, he has long been known for the “slacker rock” style, but on this album we can see more than ever that his song writing actually shows great attention to detail. By no means did he slack off when writing this album.
As always, DeMarco’s lyrics are simple, honest and concise. Sometimes, he speaks directly to his audience, imparting to us some piece of advice or wisdom. Sometimes, his words are sung to a specific second person, perhaps to his girlfriend Kiki, perhaps to his father. Sometimes, he tells us snippets and stories from his own life. The effect is a collection of songs that are real, conversational and relatable. Some of my favourite lyrics off the album are “Don’t let the world outside the window pane get to your head. Hopefully make some sense of all this shit before you’re dead” and “Remember all the faces you let in. Remember all the faces still unseen. Soon enough, you’ll see just what I mean.”
DeMarco opens his heart to us a bit more in this album. He says, “It’s about my family. I felt a lot of different things, depression, anxiety, different things, it’s strange.” One subject in particular that appears on this album is DeMarco’s father. In the song, “My Old Man”, DeMarco confesses his fear of turning into his dad, admitting that he’s beginning to see a resemblance between them. I think most people dread turning into their parents, but as fans of DeMarco know, his dad is an alcoholic and left his family when DeMarco was four. With this in mind, the song takes on another layer of meaning.
During the time that DeMarco was writing This Old Dog, his father became ill, which influenced a lot of his song writing. His lyrics approach the confusion and regret of knowing you might lose someone that was never really there for you to begin with. In the song “Moonlight on the River”, DeMarco is “saying his goodbyes”. He sings, “I’d tell you that I loved you, if I did” and “It’s so strange, deciding how I feel about you. It ain’t like I ain’t used to going on without you”. The song ends with a somewhat freakish layering of textures and sounds; the impression it gives is almost haunting, which I believe is a word that I’ve never used about DeMarco’s music before, but it fits the song and the sentiments behind it.
Another person DeMarco sings about in this album is his girlfriend, Keira or, “Kiki”. The couple has been together since they were 19. In the song “For the First Time”, DeMarco sings in his understated way how he misses Kiki when the two are separated by distance. He sings that seeing Kiki again after a little while is “just like seeing her for the first time again”.
Although Mac and Kiki are still together, this album seems to contain a number of “breakup songs” (or at least they appear to me to be so), such as the songs “One More Love Song”, “Still Beating” and “Sister”. Funnily enough, at the time that this album was released, I was dealing with a very difficult breakup. The songs I’ve just mentioned were a true comfort to me, especially the song “Sister”. The wonderful thing about this song is how pure it is. It is a short song, just over a minute long, song gently by DeMarco with a bit of mellow guitar in the background. It is almost like a lullaby. The last line in the song, “Sister know my heart goes out to you” was very consoling to me. Mac DeMarco, if you’re somehow reading this, thank you.
I think part of the beauty of this album is that not only does DeMarco open up about situations in his own life, but the songs (or at least certain lyrics) are transmutable in their simplicity, and can be related to by almost anyone, in one way or another.
DeMarco has always been known for his goofy humour and his lightheartedness, never taking anything too seriously. However, his newest album does show that his music has matured. In This Old Dog, DeMarco draws parallels to his previous albums, which makes the contrast between this album and previous ones even more evident: the song “Sister” from this album could be the older sibling of the song “Brother” from Salad Days, the song “One Another” is like the song “Another One” sung through a looking glass. With these titles, it’s like DeMarco is tipping his ball cap to his previous albums. It’s a nice nod to the past, a connection with his former self, and these new songs show how he has evolved since then.
Because DeMarco is so honest in his music, his music directly reflects him. As DeMarco himself evolves and matures, his music evolves and matures with him. This Old Dog shows this evolution but still stays true to DeMarco’s much beloved personality and style; it is an album of truthful lyrics and excellent song writing. I look forward to seeing what DeMarco does in the future.
Mac DeMarco, I’m your biggest fan!!!