If Mac DeMarco has basically become synonymous with the word "chill," his third full-length record ought to earn him a mugshot next to the dictionary definition. While it fits right in with the Canadian's catalogue of lazy summer-day tunes, This Old Dog has some new tricks. With a fresh approach and a renewed outlook on life, DeMarco reaches a whole other level of cool, lush calm as well as an unprecedented degree of maturity and introspection.
Wielding an acoustic guitar for the first time, DeMarco's strumming is simple and soft while warm, warbly keyboards fill the remaining space with a breezy, carefree atmosphere. It's a vintage, classic sound imitating some of the best of the '60s and '70s, and doing an admirable job at it.
"My Old Man" is classic Mac DeMarco with an acoustic, folksy twist. His influence from revered songwriters like Paul Simon and James Taylor is especially noticeable on tracks like the lazy-day "This Old Dog" and the chipper "One Another," while his trippy side takes over on "On the Level." The 13 tracks flow seamlessly with nary a filler song in their midst — even the minute-long "Sister," which in the middle of the album gives the appearance of being a likely filler track, has a quaint charm that invaluably ties together the album's front and back halves.
The album moves at a leisurely and at times lethargic pace, but DeMarco avoids lulling his audience to sleep by keeping the songs short and concise like his songs have always been. (The exception is "Moonlight on the River," a seven-minute soporific that would be a delight to hear while falling asleep if it didn't end up unraveling into a flurry of noise, echoes and creepy laughter toward its end.) The recordings have the occasional imperfections of a self-made album by someone as easygoing and unpretentious as DeMarco; the occasional missed string and the overall damp, confined feel are a reminder of the simplicity of his artistry — the way he does things is just as laid-back as it seems.
But as he reflects deeply and meaningfully on family, love, relationships, life and near-death throughout his songs, DeMarco shows us that he's a lot more complicated than he seems.
Order the album on silver vinyl here. (Royal Mountain Records)