Mac DeMarco records frequently revolve around love songs, usually for his high school sweetheart Kiera McNally. But this album is not about a girl. This Old Dog takes an entirely new tone, and is about the insurmountable distance between him and his father. His father has had lifelong struggles with addiction, and left Mac when he was just four years old. Mac has remarked that he understood from a young age that his dad had chosen alcohol over him, so he took his mother’s last name DeMarco.
Mac clearly resents his father’s actions, but still finds himself moved by his dad’s failing health.
Mac DeMarco has become an indie sensation with his goofy demeanor. He can be recognized by his wide gap-toothed grin, trademark baseball cap, and chain-smoking tendencies. Most people know him by his unique brand of breezy, relaxed “slacker rock,” and despite the slow and lazy atmosphere of his music, Mac DeMarco is anything but.
DeMarco recorded and produced every part of This Old Dog. Save for one song, the album features entirely acoustic guitars, but This Old Dog doesn’t really feel like an acoustic album, or even a significant departure from his established sound. He brings catchy new riffs even with the formula maintained; the cheesy synths and gratuitous reverb all ends up sounding like previous Mac DeMarco albums. DeMarco does bring a couple new instrumental tricks, like a neat little harmonica solo on “A Wolf Who Wears Sheeps Clothes” for a relaxed country vibe.
The entire theme of the album comes together with the final track “Watching Him Fade Away”. This song finds Mac conflicted about the prospect of losing his father, since he never truly had a relationship with his dad. A particularly powerful line comes from “Moonlight on the River”. Mac addresses his dad directly, singing “I’d say, see you later, if I thought I’d see you later / And I’d tell you, that I loved you if I did”.
One of the coolest parts of the album is the back half of “Moonlight on the River”. After the final verse, it breaks down into an almost Pink Floyd-esque psychedelic jam. This contributes to the overall retro vibe that This Old Dog brings. One of the first singles from the album, “My Old Man” is about the concern Mac experiences when he starts to see more of his old man in him. He’s maturing as a person and as a songwriter, but thinks he might be losing his goofy personality in the process.
That might be the case, since This Old Dog has been one of Mac’s most polished and matured records put out. Mac DeMarco has transitioned into more personal feelings and revelations about his father. What remains consistent is his subdued, indie rock style that launched him to fame, but hopefully he continues this introspective trend into future projects.