Hybrid stoner-surf punk-hipster kids rejoice — Mac DeMarco’s fourth studio album This Old Dog dropped on May 5. This album comes with good timing, since I’ve been playing Salad Days while at the beach too many times to count. This Old Dog fills the nostalgic hole in my heart for the DeMarco “vibe,” yet is obviously more elevated in its conception than DeMarco’s past projects.
The album’s first track, “My Old Man,” quickly establishes a new-and-improved sound that DeMarco explored during his relocation to Los Angeles. During the demo phase of This Old Dog’s creation, the Canadian native took influences from heavily acoustic artists like Paul Simon, contributing to the album’s lighter feel. Lyrically and thematically, DeMarco matures, reflecting on the dreaded moment of realization that he’s turning into his old man.
Themes of aging and maturity are subtly explored throughout the record, perhaps symbolic of the musician’s own creative growth spurt. “This Old Dog” touches on loyalty and mortality at a pleasant pace (“As long as I live/This old dog ain’t about to forget/All we’ve had/And all that’s next”). However much the lyrics may delve into darker spaces, “Baby You’re Out” puts an instant smile on my face. It’s still sunny enough to satisfy the festival-goers DeMarco will undoubtedly be entertaining extensively following this album’s release. I gave “One Another” a listen for the first time and noted the “Paul McCartney on a farm” vibes — listen to it and tell me the guitar doesn’t remind you of “Octopus’s Garden.”
The album’s second single, “Moonlight on the River,” breezes by with a watercolored melody and breathier vocals. Before ending with strange crashing atmospheric noise, DeMarco sings, “I’d say I loved you/If I did/I’m home/With moonlight on the river/Everybody dies,” which weighs down an otherwise beautiful track.
While most of This Old Dog still feels familiar, DeMarco has managed to explore a few new flavors. “One More Love Song” features acoustic piano, a welcome break from the standard synthesizer/keyboard combination heard on Salad Days. Demarco also allows some of his influences to shine through on this record. “Dreams From Yesterday” plays up subtle bossa nova rhythm and drums, adding complexity to a groovy aesthetic he and his fans are very comfortable with.
Admittedly, after two or three runs, This Old Dog does began to blur at the edges. Despite this, DeMarco’s genre is very much a niche (he calls it “jizz jazz,” in case you were wondering). Ultimately, these 13 tracks exceed expectations for this artist. Melodies are lighter without sounding less substantial. The most satisfying experience as a listener and longtime fan of DeMarco is to watch him mature as an artist without straying too far from his signature sound.
The comeback of 60’s funk is a trend across genres — Childish Gambino’s recent Awaken, My Love! gives direct credit to artists like James Brown. This retro aesthetic is growing in popularity among millennial listeners, and DeMarco’s introduction of outside inspirations, such as folk and funk music, are just enough to save This Old Dog from sounding, well, old. This surf-tinged psychedelic rock record will definitely be playing at every indie kid’s pool party this summer.