Album Review: This Old Dog by Mac Demarco

By: Sagarika Sharma

Mac Demarco’s recent album, This Old Dog, was released on May 5, 2017. It is his fourth studio album and has gained much more recognition than that received by his previous work. Although he still maintains a goofy, sleepy tone, this album certainly has a brighter feel. If you have liked Demarco’s previous albums, you are sure to enjoy the slightly melodic and dazed music on this album.

In This Old Dog, the kooky rock artist produced fewer humorous songs and many more heartfelt songs. It deals with the relationship Mac has with his family as well as the common genre of love and messy relationships. The easygoing music is misleading; the lyrics show Mac’s complicated and earnest experiences. Much of the album reveals Mac’s conflicting feelings with the recent reappearance of his previously absent father. Even though he has a strained relationship with his father, he still feels obligated to reach out when his father faces a life-threatening illness. “Watching Him Fade Away” is just one of the songs on the album that deals with this conflict. Mac expresses this in the lyrics when he sings “ And even though we barely know each other/ It still hurts watching him fade away…” The same friction is recurring in the songs “Moonlight on the River”, “My Old Man”, and “On The Level”.

In This Old Dog, like in any of his previous albums, Mac attempts to tackle the impossible subjects of life and relationships. His songs can be categorized as advice as well as reflected on his own experiences and regrets. One of my favorite songs on the album, “Still Beating,” reveals Mac’s struggle to act on his true intentions. While he still cares for the girl in this song, he has done something that has caused her to feel distraught and betrayed. The lyrics imply that the girl is unaware that Mac still cares for her as he sings “Honey, my heart still beats for you/ Even though you don’t feel it”. This artist has the ability to take candid feelings and create music around it which makes his songs relatable to many of his listeners. This song is genuine, but there are a few light-hearted songs about life and love on the album as well.

The actual instrumentation on this album is certainly more polished and has evolved from his previous work. The unrelenting refinement of his art is masked by breezy notes and guitar melody. The music on This Old Dog does have the same character, but each song has its own tone. “Dreams from Yesterday” has some undertones that are certainly bossa nova while “One Another” has a rich, oldie jingle texture. In “For the First Time,” the bass and the drum play with one voice and are completely indistinguishable.

“Moonlight on The River,” my absolute favorite song on the album, has a coda toward the end of the song that displays Mac’s ability to add a spacey and layered effect to a small melody and idea. He almost goes off on a tangent at the end where his inner conflict fuses with the music. Mac takes the acoustic guitar melody that has been playing throughout the song and begins to add different components that are difficult to describe. Each added component is echoed and climbing trills are spaced out in the outro. It almost feels like you are listening to whales on a recording by a hydrophone.

What might also be surprising, and certainly does not fit into Mac’s slacker persona, is that he actually recorded all the music by himself on top of singing the songs. All the instrumentation that you hear on the album was done by the multi-talented artist. Mac Demarco has a lighthearted persona and his music may seem airy, but he puts genuine effort into making sure that every note falls into place. The loony rock artist created a respectable work of art done almost entirely without reliance on others.

This Old Dog is an album that I would highly recommend listening to. It adds a goofy, sleepy, and spacey perspective to your life that is much needed in a stressful high-school life. I understand the initial apprehension you may have when trying something different or listening to a new album; I felt the same way when deciding to listen to the indie rock artist. Even though it was not my usual style, I was pleasantly surprised and quickly became an admirer of Mac’s work. This Old Dog is a work that I can only describe as sunny, druggy, and genuine.

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