This Dog Has Grown

Mac DeMarco’s latest studio offering is a revelation, especially for someone who’s built his career entirely on happy-go-lucky slacker rock By Chanun Poomsawai

Mac DeMarco/ This Old Dog

Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco possesses the kind of persona that bestrides the line between utterly charismatic and annoyingly boorish. Known for his Jackass-esque onstage antics that occasionally involve nudity, he tends to divide his audience on a regular basis. (His debut Bangkok gig back in late 2013, however, was a relatively tame affair bereft of any flashing — maybe he was just toning it down due to all the political kerfuffle?).

Despite that very small anomaly, he has, for the past five years, luxuriated in the filthy jokes-loving slacker, ne’er-do-well image both on and off stage, and made it into his own personal brand. His style of laidback guitar pop — unabashedly lo-fi and off-kilter — has also served to underscore this goofiness in a wholesome way.

Or at least until now. DeMarco’s third studio LP This Old Dog marks a quite a departure from his previous sonic goofiness. Here, not only does he seem to be demanding to be taken seriously, he also chooses to tackle heavier subjects, reflecting on growing old and the relationship with his estranged father.

Opening track My Old Man addresses the latter with such tender earnestness we never knew existed within the playful singer-songwriter. “Look in the mirror, who do you see?/ Someone familiar, but surely not me/ For he can’t be me/ Look how old and cold and tired/ And lonely he’s become,” he sings over breezy acoustic guitar before realising that he might be facing his ultimate nightmare — that he’s indeed turning into his father (“Uh-oh, looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me”).

The title track continues with the ageing theme as DeMarco ponders on the fact that he’s grown weary (“Sometimes my love may be put on hold/ Sometimes my heart may seem awful cold … This old dog ain’t about to forget/ All we’ve had and all that’s next”). While the first two tracks represent growth in his songwriting, For the First Time, Dreams from Yesterday and On the Level denote an evolution of his production, which, in this case, translates into refined arrangements and a substantial amount of woozy synths.

Long-time fans may be slightly alarmed by all this newfound maturity, but rest assured, this doesn’t mean that the classic Mac DeMarco is totally amiss either. Songs like Baby You’re Out and One Another are still redolent of the feel-good nature of his previous works and should appease his devotees.

Taken as a whole, This Old Dog is Mac DeMarco’s most focused and vulnerable work to date. No longer sounding so flippant or zoned-out, he delivers an intimate portrayal of a serious artist, one who’s not afraid to expand his musical repertoire. As he sings “Honey, I cried too, you better believe it” on Still Beating, we have no choice but taking him at his word.

THE PLAYLIST

Jenny The Scallywags (feat. Singto Numchok)/ Please Put Down Your Phone

Stop what you’re doing because Bangkok’s folk rock five-piece Jenny The Scallywags have just dropped what could possibly be the most universally relevant jam of the modern times. Set to toe-tapping, ukulele-versus-guitar melodies, Please Put Down Your Phone features lush boy-girl harmonies courtesy of singer-songwriter Singto Numchok and the band’s very own Jenny Lackgren. “Please put down your phone/ Look at me, look at me/ I’m right here, right now,” Singto implores. “And all those things you read/ Are just lights on a screen/ ‘Till the battery runs low.” Touche, guys.

Amber Coffman/ Nobody Knows

Nobody Knows marks the third single from Amber Coffman’s upcoming debut solo album City of No Reply. While it doesn’t deviate too far from previous cuts All To Myself and No Coffee, the song does highlight the former Dirty Projector member’s aptitude for putting a contemporary spin on ’70s pop. There’s also a whiff of funk-leaning ’80s RB here that recalls Blood Orange, which always comes as a welcome element.

The National/ The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness

With Donald Trump firmly implanted in the Oval Office, this year has had more than its fair share of songs with a political bent. The latest band to get in on the act is none other than melancholia-inflicted indie-rock quintet The National. Touted as “an abstract portrait of a weird time we’re in”, their new cut The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness speaks of the dystopian world we have found ourselves in and how faith is perhaps the only thing you can possibly cling on to. “We’re in a different kind of thing now/ All night you’re talking to God … Also no other faith is light enough for this place/ We said we’d only die of lonely secrets,” Matt Berninger sings in his signature baritone alongside Aaron Dessner’s jagged guitars.

Fleet Foxes/ Foo’s Errand

Fool’s Errand is the second single taken from Fleet Foxes’ forthcoming record Crack-Up. The track follows Third of May/Odaigahara, the epic nine-minute-long first offering, and finds the folk ensemble in their classic bittersweet element. “I knew it was a fool’s errand, waiting for a sign,” frontman Robin Pecknold muses. “But I can’t leave until the sign comes to mind.” The gentle piano then chimes in, supplying the production with a ray of optimism all the while addressing the underlying sense of resignation.

Beach House/ Chariot

The Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House have just announced the release of their first compilation album B-Sides and Rarities, a follow-up to 2015’s Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars. Here, we get to hear Chariot, one of the two previously unreleased tracks scheduled to appear on the record. Musically, it’s what one would expect from the pair — vocalist Victoria Legrand relishing in her brand of pastel-hued dolor and Alex Scally in his mix of sustained organ keys and emotive guitar.