Album Review: Mac DeMarco – “Salad Days”

Mac DeMarco is a Canadian lo-fi indie rock musician, who has just put out his third full-length album, Salad Days. This is my first taste of DeMarco, and his latest work came highly recommended. Let’s explore Salad Days together. Enjoy.

Slacker rock at its most comfortable

The first thing that I notice on Salad Days is DeMarco’s laid-back approach to just about everything. From the first few seconds of the self-titled track, DeMarco has pretty much shown you his method to music. If you listen to “Salad Days” and absolutely loathe everything you hear, don’t bother listening to the rest of the album. You will hate it. DeMarco’s not throwing a change-up any time soon. DeMarco is a 20-something, pot smoking, PBR drinking, chill-out-at-a-barbecue kind of guy. And his mid-tempo, soft strumming, relaxed vocal aesthetic reillustrates what you knew from first glance.

Salad Days is chocked full of these slow burning, gentle beachy indie rock tunes. Unlike other sand-infused artists Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin, DeMarco never shifts gears. Song after song we are met with extremely minimal change. Where Segall can have an album with both metalesque guitar riffs and poppy acoustic tunes, DeMarco is unwavering.

On short and sweet songs like “Blue Boy” and “Brother,” DeMarco’s burnout life feels enticing. You’re entranced into his fluid world, the guitars smooth as silk, and the vocals whisper hooks in your ear. In contrast however, the four minute long “Let My Baby Stay” drags on and on, without ever really going anywhere. By the tenth track “Go Easy,” you’re exhausted of DeMarco’s ever-present slacker mystique, and you suddenly feel the urge to hand-in an application at your local Walgreen’s Pharmacy.  On these songs, DeMarco sounds lazy and uninspired; hell, on “Jonny’s Odyssey,” the album’s closing track, he can’t even be bothered to write lyrics.

But I’m not condemning. DeMarco’s haze-filled universe; I’m just saying I don’t want to live in it for an entirety of an album. But, when Salad Days changes things up, even in just the slightest, it’s revitalizing. “Passing Out Pieces” introduces these catchy synth lines, that are fantastic, and sound like something off an early MGMT album. DeMarco himself sounds rejuvenated by the addition. Unfortunately, after the taste of something new, returning to the original formula in “Treat Her Better,” sounds dull and aged. It’s not a bad song, but pales in comparison to the synth glory of “Passing Out Pieces”.

Thankfully, the synthesizer returns for “Chamber of Reflections,” my favorite off of Salad Days. The track evokes an R&B groove with a cool performance from the rhythm section. DeMarco’s vocals are sly as he repeats the song’s hook “Alone again…” But like “Passing Out Pieces,” the element that really pushes this song to greatness, are the poppy synth lines. And if I had my way, all of DeMarco’s future releases would be loaded with similar infectious melodies. They add depth to his slacker rock mannerisms, and help shake up the album’s slower points.

In all, I’m feeling pretty lukewarm about Salad Days. There are tracks that I enjoy, but the album’s overall monotony has me weary about coming back to DeMarco. If he changes his game up a little more, I’ll be happy to give him another listen. But, if I get another album weighed down by lackluster tunes, than Mac DeMarco will have to sit on his couch and listen to Black Sabbath without me.