Mac DeMarco - Salad Days (4 stars)

Mac DeMarco - Salad Days

New-found smoothness to 80s and 90s college rock sound from young Canadian songwriter

(Captured Tracks)

Mac DeMarco is only 23 years old, but already he is world-weary. His second full-length album, Salad Days, sees the Canadian songwriter eschewing the weirdness of previous releases, like 2012’s 2, for something approaching wisdom, complete with meditations on love, life, growing apart and growing old.

From the opening, title track – where he sings ‘As I’m getting older, chip upon my shoulder’ – it’s clear that DeMarco is looking at the bigger picture, and he doesn’t always like what he’s seeing. It’s not just the lyrical themes that touch all the bases, but musically, too, he covers a lot of ground. One minute he’s kicking out a bona fide soft-rock tune like ‘Let Her Go’, the record’s most straightforward and catchy track; the next he’s crooning over icy synths on ‘Chamber of Reflection’, the album’s most meditative tune. But throughout the record, there’s a cohesiveness to all the songs that makes the disc a rewarding listen.

Jangly guitars and echoes of 80s and 90s college rock are still there, but there’s a smoothness to his sound that wasn’t present before, and it speaks volumes about the record’s maturity when the closest reference points are Jonathan Richman, Big Star and Harry Nilsson. He channels his inner wise-old-man on ‘Treat Her Better’, one of the album’s best tracks, offering sage advice, ‘Treat her better, boy, if having her by your side’s something you enjoy.’

No longer is he singing an ode to Viceroy, his cigarette brand of choice, as he did on his debut album. This time he’s musing on life itself, and having a few existential moments in the process, singing: ‘Watching my life pass in front on my eyes. Hell of a story, or is it boring?’ on ‘Passing Out Pieces’. Maybe he’s bored with all of the rowdiness of his live shows – after all, in a recent interview he admitted that he and his band are tired of touring after being on the road for a year and a half non-stop. In any case, world-weary or not, Salad Days is not only a great record, but also a fun ride to be on.

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