Everyone’s favourite dream pop/rocker Mac DeMarco is back with his most mature and emotional album to date. This Old Dog steps away from Mac’s typical goofy persona in favour of a more emotional and retrospective approach.
By Adam Shorthouse.
Those familiar with Mac DeMarco will quickly note that this record isn’t quite like the others. Whilst Mac is no stranger to dark and personal subjects, he has always tackled such issues in the background of his tracks. Mac’s wacky onstage persona and his quirky jangle pop style usually take centre stage, whilst the deeper meaning of his music is hidden behind absurdist metaphors. However, on this album, Mac’s songwriting takes a far more literal approach. From new loves to lost loves, and from relationships with his sister to his father, Mac takes the listener on an emotional roller-coaster through his life, his heartbreaks, and his losses.
Structurally, This Old Dog sounds like an album (bold statement; we know). But, whereas previous projects like 2 and Salad Days felt more so like compilation records, This Old Dog is framed as a complete project. The album begins with My Old Man. Hardcore Mac fans will be all too familiar with Mac’s rocky history with his father, so as Mac starts to sing about how he is beginning to “see more of my old man in me,” he is criticising himself by comparing self to the most flawed man in his life. But whilst he harbours clear contempt for his father, at the end of the record on Watching Him Fade Away, Mac explores his father’s death. Despite still struggling with abandonment issues caused by his dad, Mac still clearly grieves his loss. This emotional baggage carries its way through the entire record, manifesting into love songs such as For the First Time, and ballads such as Sister. What really makes this record so impactful is Mac’s phenomenal lyrical ability. It only takes one listen of Genius to see just how deep and expendable Mac’s lyrics are, especially when contained within the context of his dreamy acoustic melodies.
In terms of Mac’s style, it hasn’t changed much since his first record 2. However, that isn’t a bad thing. His flawlessly reliable execution of each song, along with the sense of originality each track has makes Mac’s entire discography a real treat to lose yourself in. From the rolling guitar chords on My Old Man, to the breezy harmonica on A Wolf Who Wears Sheep’s Clothes, to the robotic synth keyboard on For the First Time, Mac shows real musical diversity. His ability to take a familiar sound and utilise every aspect of it is what makes Mac a modern indie rock icon.