Think Outside the Boom Box: Return of the Mac

Music columnist Patrick McKenna on the latest from DeMarco

By Patrick McKenna | April 8, 2014

Tags: Music Reviews

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According to Mac DeMarco, his latest LP Salad Days has a mood that screams, “I was just on tour for 18 months, and I'm tired!” The man speaks the truth.

Exhaustion is one unspoken element in music that takes over the songwriter nearly to the same degree as love. For DeMarco, both are prevalent pieces to his most recent work of art.

Since the release of his first full-length record, _2_, DeMarco has become the face of indie-rock, as the lovable class-clown who sings about the wonders of cigarettes smoked on a roof on a summer night.

Using effect pedals, his guitar style is something that gives off beachy, baked and jazzy all in one. He’s become known for his on-stage shenanigans (between covering Limp Bizkit songs and crooning obscenities in between songs), love for cross-dressing and memorable gap-toothed smile.

With this acclaim came the standard “never-ending” tour cycle that leaves many up-and-coming artists exhausted, both physically and emotionally. All this, on top of a desire to be taken more seriously, led to Salad Days, the artist’s second LP.

Releasing songs that don’t involve pressing daily issues like love and loss, DeMarco found a total change in pace — both instrumentally and vocally — on Salad Days. The sweet, smoky crooner has come into his own vocally, challenging himself and speaking about his personal woes. A significantly more melancholic album compared to 2_, _Salad Days’s lyrical matter digs into the struggles of growing up and holding on to loved ones throughout the travel lifestyle musicians have.

The album starts off with the title track “Salad Days,” with the lyrics reading, “As I’m getting older, chip up on my shoulder / Rolling through life, to roll over and die.”

With opening lines speaking on feeling distraught over moving through life too fast, it sets a definite tone for the entire record.

“Let My Baby Stay,” the sixth track off the album, is DeMarco’s best love ballad thus far in his career. With a distant Santo & Johnny-esque, smooth guitar-ride feeling, the singer begs for his technically-illegal-immigrant-long-time-gal-pal to not be deported with a magnificent falsetto performance never heard sung by him before.

“Passing Out Pieces” takes a different approach than most of the slow tempo ballads, with a hazy, almost accordion-sounding melody that connects the echoing voice proclaiming his concerns with the crowds he’s recently spent time with. “Pieces” speaks for the entire record’s emotion — a cry for recognition, saying that even though he’s quick with a joke, his career is far from one.

The king of jokes’ biggest weakness is being taken seriously. DeMarco lives with this problem, but with Salad Days, his musical career can now be affirmed of its sincerity.

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