Mac DeMarco's 'Five Easy Hot Dogs' Has Chill Beats to Study/Relax To
Published Jan 19, 2023Back in 2017, Mac DeMarco led the Colbert band in a lavish, horn-filled rendition of "One Another," in which the velvet-voiced DeMarco sounded (and looked) right at home, seemingly reaching his inevitable final form as a lounge lizard band leader. More of that, please!
But I'm still waiting for DeMarco's big jazz album, because he's gone in the opposite direction since. Here Comes the Cowboy, released in 2019, was a minimalist dispatch from his home studio, and the absurdly titled Five Easy Hot Dogs is even more low-key, its 14 tracks all instrumental sketches captured during a road trip around North America (with each cut named after the city in which it was recorded).
Five Easy Hot Dogs is DeMarco's second instrumental album, but while 2015's Some Other Ones was a stopgap release between larger projects, he seems to be treating this one as a proper album. It's certainly not going to produce the next "Viceroy" or "Chamber of Reflection," but it's an exceedingly pleasant listen — the kind of thing that's the perfect soundtrack for working and studying, or to make chores a little more tolerable. I sometimes forget that I'm listening to it — and that's a good thing, its easygoing instrumental sketches setting a vibe rather than making a distinct impression.
DeMarco is a master of his instruments, and while nothing on Five Easy Hot Dogs is flashy in the slightest, his skill shines despite his apparent aversion to showing off. The basslines are sparse but perfectly in the pocket, while the guitars hold down pseudo bossa nova grooves ("Vancouver," "Rockaway") and nimble finger picking ("Portland 2," "Chicago 2"), as bloopy synthesizers sketch out simple melodies. At some point in the road trip, it sounds like DeMarco raided a middle school music room: click-clacking wooden hand percussion appears on a number of tracks, and "Portland 2" features harmonized recorders.
In a press release, DeMarco said, "This record sounds like what rolling around like that feels like." To me, it sounds like the exact opposite: chilling out and laying low, contentedly going nowhere except for in your own mind. (Royal Mountain Records)