In the continuous discussion on music, there are a lot of subjects to take into consideration, especially with artists who have been in the game for a longer period. With Mac Demarco and his newest album, This Old Dog, the conversation seems to revolve around a maturing sound. The third LP in Demarco’s discography is a reflection on the last decade in independent music and the struggles he faces as he gets closer to being a staple in the scene rather than being the new kid on the block.
What I hear the most from people on This Old Dog is that Demarco’s subject matter is what has matured greatly. I can’t help but disagree and deviate from hat opinion, Mac has always written music about his own life creating a diary-like subject matter in his lyrics. To me, there is nothing more mature than wearing one’s own heart on one’s sleeve even if some of the lyrics are humorous. Where we hear maturing in Mac’s sound is in his production style and instrumentation.
For the most part, this is an acoustic guitar album and a damn good one at it. A few months ago, I wrote about Ty Segall’s use of acoustic guitar on his recent self-titled LP and how some of the tracks on it will hopefully inspire new musicians to not overlook the instrument. It’s safe to say that the listener can definitely throw This Old Dog into the same category. Paired with his signature keyboard style and funk-inspired rhythm section, the acoustic is a great move on Mac Demarco’s part, it will be exciting to see how he recreates the new songs in a live setting where he’s known not to stray from the electric guitar, even during solo performances.
The album opens with two tracks that were released a few months ago, My Old Man and then the title track follows. The former is a great opener, in the past there has been some small glimpses into Mac Demarco’s deeper side, one beyond his fun love songs and party ballads. However, My Old Man sets the stage perfectly for the rest of the album with Demarco talking about growing older and wanting to be himself rather than follow in someone else’s footsteps, presumably his own father in this song.
For the First Time is a great song on the album and an instant classic in Demarco’s repertoire. As stated in the last paragraph, something he’s known for is fun love songs. I say fun because unlike other contemporary music, Mac has always had a way with writing about his girlfriend [Kiera, I think?] in a way that isn’t serious nor un-serious, just fun. Isn’t that what being young and in love is supposed to be about, just enjoying one’s time with someone? The other love song on this album One More Love Song, tackles the subject in a similar way and also features a standard, acoustic piano; another instrument Demarco isn’t widely known for incorporating.
One of the most compelling songs on This Old Dog is Dreams of Yesterday. In it, Mac sings about dealing with success and living out a teenager’s dreams as a twenty-something. “Once a life, believes it’s got it set up, a closer look reveals, just how empty you can feel” he sings over the ever-present acoustic. The rock star life isn’t what it appears to be, is what he’s getting at. It’s not a bad life, just not what everyone thinks it is.
The last track worth touching on is gracefully placed towards the end, Moonlight on the River. “I’d say, see ya later, if I thought I’d see ya later” is one of the best lyrics I’ve heard this last week. It’s tough to say if the song is about anything or anyone in particular but from what this writer can tell, it’s another song about success and what artists think about between their time in the spotlight.
So is This Old Dog and album that exemplifies maturity in artistry? While most opinions would point towards yes, I would like to throw my two cents in by saying that the album is a better example of expansion in craft. As we get older and experience life from different perspectives, we also find more to write about. Mac Demarco is one of those artists whose music is still growing and the audio aesthetic on This Old Dog is merely chapter two for an artist with a long career ahead.
Click here to listen to a live version of Moonlight on the River.
– By Mike Metcalf