Mac_DeMarco_Salad_Days

Will Schube is studying the benefits of the paleo diet

Some weird form of joy nonchalantly oozes its way out of Mac DeMarco’s second full-length, Salad Days. Eleven tracks clock in at just under 35 minutes, and DeMarco’s music asks little more of its listeners than simply pressing play and maybe getting high. Mac makes great couch sitting music. Musically, not too much has changed from DeMarco’s first full-length, aside from the occasional complex musical flourish. The evolution of DeMarco’s craft lies in his development as a lyricist. As he described in an interview with Pitchfork, DeMarco has re-contextualized lyricism as an integral part of songwriting—no longer something to merely fill in the musical gaps, but as a new way in which to drive a song forward. Says the profile, “For Salad Days, [DeMarco] imposed a firm restriction on himself as a songwriter: No more songs ‘about absolutely nothing’ with ambiguous lyrics. He’s concerned that his new songs, which he describes as negative, may putt off some fans. ‘But I need to get this shit out, you know?'” This sentiment rears its head from the waking moments of Salad Days, an album more somber than its musical tone would suggest. DeMarco’s gap-toothed grin is as wide as ever, but behind that face is an artist ready to grow up.

 

“As I’m getting older/Chip up on my shoulder”, are the first words on “Salad Days”, the album’s first song and title track. DeMarco’s vocal delivery falls somewhere between ambivalent and depressed, as the words he sings seem to be bumming him out before a pre-chorus of half-hearted “La La La’s”. The chorus isn’t much happier, approaching the ‘negative’ realm he talked about in the interview with Pitchfork. He sings, “Acting like my life’s already over/Act your age and try another year”. It’s apparent from the outset of Salad Days that DeMarco’s early, surprising success has manifested itself in a tension between a goofy public persona and a kid growing disillusioned with such an act. DeMarco’s still just 23 years old.

Salad Days follows an unvarying sonic template, with DeMarco relying on similar guitar tones, drum sounds, and vocal deliveries from track-to-track. This creates a bit of a lull hanging over the record’s entire structure, but DeMarco’s formula is often more comforting than annoying or redundant. When executed poorly, this formula creates some lackluster results. The real misses on Salad Days stick out in significant ways. “Let My Baby Stay”, Mac’s ode to his longtime girlfriend, meanders in uninteresting territory for its entirety. DeMarco sounds almost as bored as his listener must be, lazily strumming an acoustic guitar over an unassuming woodblock. His words have no bite, no interest in the moments they’re creating. “Treat Her Better”, “Goodbye Weekend”, and “Go Easy” all sound remarkably similar, which would be more of a problem if the pervasive sound wasn’t engaging. DeMarco makes up for these redundancies in his subtle approach of new territories , particularly on early single “Passing Out Pieces” and “Chamber of Reflection”. “Reflection” uses a piercing, new age-esque R & B synth to jump into an unexplored world, sporting one of the few basslines on Salad Days that does more than merely support (the excellent album closer, “Johnny’s Odyssey” utilizes the bass in a similar way). DeMarco’s voice matches the energy of the track, and the results are excellent.

DeMarco’s dissatisfaction with complacency is what pushes Salad Days‘ otherwise lesser moments into something far more engaging.  The high points are higher than ever, and the result is an album restless and unwilling to settle into a normalcy. DeMarco’s growing up—that gap-toothed grin is as goofy as ever—but maybe he’s not all that satisfied with playing class clown.  Salad Days begins in a haze of disenchantment and slowly wavers to his earlier days as resident wise ass; it’s less a sign of confusion than one of maturation.

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