This Old Dog
This Old Dog, the third full length record from Canada’s Ambassador of Chill, Mac DeMarco, is a quieter affair than his previous outings, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t retain the sense of unease that permeated his previous efforts, nor his impeccable song writing chops.
He trades in the nervous twang of Salad Days and off kilter rocking of 2 with a collection of tunes driven mainly by acoustic guitar, underpinned by fuzzy synths and delicate drums. Bookended by songs about his father, one may assume this is his confessional album, in the tradition of Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band.
While the songs at first might not seem to have the immediate quirky charm and angularity of such crowd pleasers as ‘Viceroy’ or ‘The Stars Keep on Calling my Name’, the new tunes exude a fresh warmth which ultimately feels like a step forward. No song on the album exemplifies this better than its eponymous track ‘This Old Dog’. With its easy charm, and sleepy guitar swells, Demarco imbues the tune with a greater level of sophistication and insight than his previous efforts.
Other stand out tunes include the uncharacteristically lengthy and meditative ‘Moonlight on the River’ and the snappy ‘A Wolf who wears Sheeps clothes’. Both are examples of his mastery of his recording technique and his growing ability to pare down his lyrics to an essential level.
In general, there is nothing at all extraneous about this album. The fact that he is playing every instrument gives the overall sound an inherently cohesive – if slightly claustrophobic –feel, but it does make me wonder what the album might have sounded like if other musicians had been employed. Perhaps it’s something he might explore in future efforts.
At just 28 years old, Demarco, has a long road ahead and it’s clear that he is more than capable of many new tricks along the way. I look forward to his continued progression. My overall take on this latest work is that it’s as an off-the-cuff pit stop on his musical journey, eminently pleasant to be sure but ultimately transitory.