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Mac DeMarco is only three albums deep in his career. Breakthrough album 2 was a cohesive complement to an afternoon open-air bevy and on follow-up Salad Days, DeMarco gives even more to his fans, offering tunes familiar yet different.
The guitar tone remains kaleidoscopic yet never ventures towards hyperactive. He adds psychedelic synths to the mix here and there. The tempo of the album is slower but never sluggish or dragging.
It also proves DeMarco’s a decent singer-songwriter, showing the sincere underside of his onstage scallywag persona. That sincerity and maturity almost makes Salad Days sound like a self-addressed letter, chronicling life experiences after moments of self-realisation.
The album struggles a bit at the top but really kicks off on third track Brother. Starting with DeMarco cussing under his breath, the guitars are pared back, with twinkling, off-tune guitars floating under strains of “Take it slo-o-o-w / brother / let it go-o-o-o / go home“.
Follow up Let Her Go borrows its chorus and tropicana sound from Brother, and Goodbye Weekend remains a relative of the material on 2. Here, DeMarco’s swaggering delivery in the chorus provides an earworm hook, despite a sordid confessional feel.
Salad Days takes a turn for the better when Let My Baby Stay comes by, an acoustic slow number which recalls Elliott Smith’s pained, brooding strum. But really, the song signifies a change in flow to the whole album.
Album highlight Passing Out The Pieces is next, sounding like a hidden B-side from Magical Mystery Tour, with blaring accordion-like keys and dulled horns sending us bloated, floating upriver. Instrumental closer Jonny’s Odyssey is another leaf from the Beatles’ beaten book, a leaf borrowed for the better.
DeMarco takes a new tack once again with Chamber Of Reflection, a down-tempo synth-driven Toro Y Moi-aping track that wouldn’t be amiss in a glitzy druggy ’80s moment. The deep, dark tune has got enough pull to make you dance lazily or throw your arms up and sway in your bedroom, in the same way Still Together felt like a warm, familiar hug.
It’s safe to say that Salad Days is Mac DeMarco’s best offering. And while his live show may still be laden with juvenility and dick jokes, this album makes you ask a few questions. Has he changed? Has he mellowed? Has he grown up? Who knows, really, but his latest record explores interesting ideas and fresh sounds, and does it well. It shines an honest light on DeMarco’s talent, mature or not.