Mac DeMarco releases new songs, but is he a different beast, or the same old dog?

Recently and without much fanfare, everyone’s favorite gap-toothed indie rocker Mac DeMarco released two tracks off his forthcoming album This Old Dog (out May 5). Titled “My Old Man” and “This Old Dog,” each is a glimpse into DeMarco’s changing lifestyle: the first demos of the tracks were finished just as he moved from New York to Los Angeles. Unlike previous albums, where DeMarco claims to “just write, record, and put it out; no problem,” the demands of his move to L.A. forced him to spend more time working on each track. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, as he points out in a recent press release: When that happens, you really get to know the songs. It was a different vibe.”

Yet it’s hard to distinguish a “different vibe” on these tracks from DeMarco’s most recent albums, Salad Days and Another One. For an artist who is marketing this album as a transition from his previous works, I was a little disheartened on my first listen to both tracks. “My Old Man” begins with an interesting synthesizer pattern, which got my hopes up that this song would be a real departure from his past works. As soon as DeMarco begins strumming his acoustic guitar and singing, however, the song begins to feel like it could’ve fit anywhere on Another One, and I felt a little disappointed. “This Old Dog” is, if anything, more guilty of this: DeMarco croons over his acoustic guitar while singing about change, love and heartbreak, and as a result the song sounds even more formulaic.

Lyrically, however, Mac definitely seems to have (slightly) shifted away from singing exclusively about romance or his love of cigarettes. He seems conscious of the fact that his music is, at least to him, changing, and he still wants to remember his roots: “This old dog ain’t about to forget / All we’ve had and all that’s next,” he sings on “This Old Dog,” almost to allay our fears about his changing music. Sadly, the theme of change which is prevalent in both songs just doesn’t match up with what one actually hears. It’s almost as if Mac has convinced himself that his music has changed dynamically, or that he’s in some liminal state of change, yet he still remains trapped in his same old ways.

For all of my issues with these tracks, it’s hard not to like them. I’ll admit, Mac has his own style of music, and he consistently does it well. His voice still sounds great and the songs are both pleasant to listen to. We will have to wait and see if DeMarco truly delivers on his promise of a new direction with his album, but neither track released so far demonstrates this claim.

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