When many people think of Mac DeMarco they think of a laid back, unpretentious artist who doesn’t seem to take himself or the world too seriously. This easy going nature and reputation as a lovable goof is what draws many people to his music. However, behind the songs about cigarettes, the on-stage antics and the lovable gap-toothed smile lies a wounded, insecure and deeply emotional man. This side to DeMarco is on full display throughout ‘This Old Dog’, an album that sees Mac delve deeper into the truths behind his public persona.
Nobody can deny that DeMarco has always been very truthful about his personal life within the media. From his relationship with his long-time girlfriend Kiera, to his close bond with his mother, Mac is unashamed to talk about the most personal aspects of his life; ‘This Old Dog’ takes this openness one step further. In the official bio of the album DeMarco states that “one of the main goals for this record was trying to make sure I retained some kind of realness”. The core of the album shows DeMarco being truthful with himself and reflecting upon the affecting relationship with his absent father. In past interviews DeMarco has made no attempt to conceal his disdain for his father, once openly referring to him as “a piece of shit”, and yet throughout the album DeMarco still displays a lament for the father-son relationship he never had, specifically upon the heartfelt closing track “Watching Him Fade Away”. ‘This Old Dog’ is an album that confronts fatherhood not only for Mac as a son, but as a future father. Although only 27 years old, it is clear that DeMarco is beginning to face his own future and his responsibilities as a partner and potential father in the years to come. This realisation results in an album where the wacky antics and playful guitar licks of the past are subdued in favour of acoustic guitars, smooth organs, and the occasional harmonica.
For some fans the album may not seem progressive enough, too slow, or even one note, however this change marks an important musical maturation for Mac DeMarco who, in the past, has received most praise for his upbeat and catchy tracks and occasionally favoured his distinctive style over substance. On this album this is not the case, DeMarco delves deeper into the laid-back and emotionally driven elements of his previous work, such as the crooning love songs “Let My Baby Stay” and “Still Together”, which result in beautifully sincere tracks such as “Moonlight On A River” and “One More Love Song”. It is also clear that DeMarco draws from a variety of new musical influences across the album as an attempt to update his unique style. The album incorporates a twangy country influence, reminiscent of instrumental track “Boe Zaah” from ‘2’, and even a bossa-nova inspired rhythm on “Dreams From Yesterday”. As the album progresses, we are able to understand that this is a record that DeMarco has made for himself, he refuses to play the one dimensional character many people mistake him for and seeks instead to develop himself more as an artist and person resulting in a new, cleaner, breezier, light weekend-afternoon sound.
All in all, ‘This Old Dog’ amounts to Mac DeMarco’s most personal and emotionally engaging album yet, in both sound and content. Where before it may have been easy to escape into DeMarco’s music without paying full attention to the lyrical content, by placing the album’s primary focus upon his own emotional struggle and expressing his anxiety in becoming like his father Mac allows himself to showcase his true lyrical capability and render himself a more relatable and respectable songwriter; one capable of vulnerability and maturation whilst maintaining the effortless sincerity, warmth and laid-back demeanour that captured our hearts in the first place.