April 11 saw Canada’s greatest gap-toothed (and for that matter non gap-toothed) export, Mac DeMarco, offer up another slice of his imminent album, sharing “On The Level”, the third track that will appear on his forthcoming LP, This Old Dog.
One of Mac DeMarco’s greatest merits as an artist is his ability to fuse what appears to be relatively serious and sincere lyricism with comparatively easy-going instrumentation and delivery. In characteristic fashion, “On The Level” is a languid, synth heavy number which seems to meditate on a strained father-son relationship, opening with: “Boy, this could be your year/Make an old man proud of you/Forget about the tears”.
It seems paternal relationships may be a trope which runs through This Old Dog, with the first track DeMarco shared, entitled “My Old Man”, which muses on the artist’s maturation, physically and emotionally, into a figure resembling his father.
Indeed, one of DeMarco’s most loved and best known tracks, 2012’s “Cooking Up Something Good” offers a light-hearted insight into his father’s crystal meth habits, but five years later, “On The Level” plays out like a more sobering, and perhaps even a more troubled reflection on a paternal relationship, where DeMarco adopts the voice of his father: “See me eye to eye/Stand up like a man/Even from the other side”.
Musically, “On The Level” will not be remembered as one of DeMarco’s best. Nor will it be an obvious shoe-in to his characteristically raucous live set. Its arrangement is very much in keeping with his previous album, Another One.
Mac’s gentle, yet distant vocals combine with slow funk keyboard and a recurrent synth part, backed by warm, well-rounded bass. Recently, DeMarco appears to have moved away from the chorus and reverb-smothered guitar which made him something of a cult hero among Vans-wearing adolescents. Now, he’s seemingly taken a liking to a sound inspired by Casio presets and analogue backing tracks.
Despite the almost horizontal feel of This Old Dog’s predecessor, Another One, somehow DeMarco and his band managed to transform a few tracks into sweaty, festival-appropriate material. It will be interesting to see if the rest of the album remains consistent to this aesthetic, and what it can add to good old Mac’s stellar live performances. This Old Dog is out May 5 on Captured Tracks.
Words by Dan Carabine