Album Review: This Old Dog

While Canadian Mac Demarco boasts a catalogue of lazy, chill-out tunes that pivot around the same songwriting process, latest release This Old Dog shows signs of growth and progression. Incorporating a reinvigorated approach, DeMarco reaches a whole different level of nonchalance whilst incorporating a sincere degree of maturity and reflectiveness.

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At 42 minutes long, This Old Dog signifies the part-time prankster’s longest record to date. It’s a testament to his evolution as a songwriter as Demarco tackles an array personal burdens, with this the troubled relationship with his estranged father takes centre stage throughout. DeMarco’s simple, acoustic strumming is soft and enticing, supported with keyboards which help fill the remaining space with a gentle, carefree atmosphere. It’s a vintage sound that imitates some of the best that the 60’s and 70’s had to offer.

“My Old Man” is classic Mac DeMarco that incorporates a folk sound. His influence from revered songwriters like Paul Simon and James Taylor shines through on tracks such as “This Old Dog” and the upbeat “One Another.” The hallucinogenic side of Demarco is then shown on single “On the Level.” The 13 tracks flow seamlessly without any a filler. Even the minute-long “Sister,” which in the middle of the album gives the likely appearance of being a filler track, has an attractive charm that ties together the album’s beginning and ending perfectly. ‘My Old Man’ and ‘Watching Him Fade Away’ is where the record really makes an impression, Demarco goes on to confront an arresting actuality that majority happily erase instantly from our minds: turning out just like our parents.

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Demarco seems to have mastered the art of recording. In addition to playing every instrument, he also self-produced and engineered This Old Dog. The musical arrangements are minimal and gives the impression that so much is going on. One aspect of the record which is particularly intriguing is that Demarco’s voice is recorded bone-dry to enhance the conversational tone. This gives off the impression that he’s sat at the end of the bed, engaged in a normal conversation. The bass and percussion are so in unison, that they somehow sound like a single instrument.

For all the substance and appeal of previous work such as 2014’s Salad Days, this record signifies and demonstrates just how far Demarco has developed and shows that his ambitions lie beyond simply churning out effervescent pop singles. Intimate and brutally honest, ‘This Old Dog’ is Mac DeMarco’s most essential chapter of slacker doctrine to date.

Words: Matthew Thomas

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