Mac Demarco has always come across as a chilled out, funny and down to earth guy, who seems like he’d probably be more or less the same offstage as he is on. With apparently no airs about him, he’s professed that he’s “just like the kids who listen to [his] music…not some pretentious art weirdo”, and this is easy to believe. Demarco gifts us with humour and silliness in his music that blend seamlessly to create a hazy, almost trippy, sound. This sound is distinct in a world that is saturated in guitar music, and the release of his third album This Old Dog gives us more of that signature Demarco music. However, there is a definite shift with this album, showcasing a more sombre side to the Canadian songwriter.
On previous albums, Demarco combined his signature guitar playing with oftentimes humourous lyrics to form off-kilter, chilled out songs. This gave a strong correlation between the personality of the artist and the vibes of his music, essentially the songs seemingly embodied his personality. With This Old Dog, if we are to continue believing this crossover of music and personality, then we are given an insight into the more serious side of Demarco’s life, with the troubled relationship with his father being a recurring theme.
This record features a heavy presence of acoustic guitar and less electric guitar effects, which instantly steer it in a different direction to his previous work. This takes play on the first track ‘My Old Man’ which embarks the album in this new direction, all the while being distinctly Demarco. The electric guitar and hazy effects are gone, replaced with the strumming of an acoustic – however, that classic, trippy Demarco sound is apparent in the muted organ played non-interferingly in the background. It sounds upbeat and chirpy which contrasts against the sobering message in the lyrics “Look in the mirror, who do you see? Someone familiar, surely not me. For it can’t be me, look how old and cold and tired and lonely he’s become”. The album continues in this style, with some upbeat but more slow-paced numbers, ending with the track ‘Watching Him Fade Away’, another nod to his father.
While the music has that same-but-different stamp to it, the songwriting shows the most growth for Demarco. The album is carefully arranged and the lyrics more earnest than ever before. Having arranged, and produced the album himself, while also playing all the instruments and vocals, this truly is a creative feat for Demarco. He has admirably carved his own distinct sound and This Old Dog has shown him remain true to this, but branch out and grow as a musician nonetheless.