For all his antics, gags, and occasional pantslessness, Mac DeMarco has always been a sensitive soul. Of course, this isn’t news to anyone who’s ventured past his wild-goofball stage persona and dived into the dreamily intimate and playfully askew pop songs that fill all of the Canuck’s releases. DeMarco’s first full-length album in three years, This Old Dog, may be his richest and smoothest to date, showcasing his growing love for vintage synths and his increasing skill in using them to enhance the shine and shimmer of his deceptively casual melodies.
The candor he displays in many new songs—in which he reflects on a fraught relationship with his father—is one element that evokes his ‘70s singer/songwriter heroes, a pantheon that includes James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Harry Nilsson. Yet the music’s effervescence and spirit of playfulness demonstrate his deep devotion to mavericks like Jonathan Richman and Yellow Magic Orchestra just as clearly. All the while, he inches closer to his long-stated ambition to make an album as strong as his favorites, with Neil Young’s Harvest and John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band as a couple he often cites.
Any way you slice it, This Old Dog is a shockingly mature effort for a guy who remains famous for interrupting a gig to stick a drumstick up his butt. Several key Mac tracks show how he got here, along with songs by the icons who inspired him and some from friends and collaborators like Ariel Pink and Walter TV.