Every kid has to grow up someday. For self-proclaimed “walk, talking meme,” and beloved trouble child of the indie sphere, Mac Demarco, this day arrives alongside his third studio record “This Old Dog.” The silliness omnipresent in Demarco’s earlier work has been tamed and placed by the wayside, giving the gap-toothed debonair chance to let the music and songwriting speak for themselves.
“This Old Dog” listens like a photo album of Demarco’s psyche, with mellow, synth-laden guitar ballads encompassing the pages. The track list exudes warmth like a belly of bourbon on a brisk day, and songs vary from cheery to woozy to sparse, but always intimate. “My Old Man,” juxtaposes pleasant guitar strums and cherry melodies with Demarco’s fear of becoming like his father, while the similarly chipper “One Another” bolsters the why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along disposition. Alternately, tracks such as the aloof and spacey “On the Level” point directly inward. “Moonlight on the River,” a sublimely eerie opus complete with multi-layered electronic and guitar instrumentals as well as subtle, concise lyrics epitomize the album’s theme: Demarco’s reflections on his father who abandoned him. This point is hammered home by the beautiful, pointed, minimalist closer, “Watching Him Fade Away,” where Demarco laments letting memories of his father drift away, despite their stunted relationship. It’s Mac Demarco at a new peak of his singer-songwriter prowess.
While the middle of “This Old Dog” lulls with a few tedious and samey tracks, the beginning and end are punctuated by some of the best work of Demarco’s career. He succeeds in creating music here that manages to be replayable and joyful – prime tunes for Summer – in addition to being deeply personal and lovingly crafted. While getting older and maturing is rued and resisted by many, Demarco’s growth as an artist on “This Old Dog” is a great sign that the best is yet to come.