Compared to past albums Salad Days is a much more focused effort – not so much in sound, which still hovers between Gilberto Gil and The Beatles – but in content. Mac DeMarco’s matured a great deal since his Makeout Videotape days, and the album serves as something of a totem. But for as well adjusted as he may seem here it’s hard not to think about that lingering dark cloud on the horizon, the one that could come crashing down on him at any moment.
In a way that’s what makes Mac DeMarco great. He’s at his best during those mischievous, devil-may-care moments – where he’s a bit unhinged and acts out in ways that have made his live performances something of legend. He doesn’t glaze over those emotions, he gets to the heart of it and is gutsy enough to face whatever he finds there.
Whether or not Mac’s good guy form can hold up against the pressures of stardom is entirely up in the air. What is certain, however, is that whatever happens – good or bad – it’ll be worked out and managed through some incredibly soulful music like it does here on Salad Days.
It’s smart to open the album with the title cut, it gets all the unnecessary formalities out of the way and allows Mac to roam free. The peculiar chords and fuzzy melodies is very much in stride with 2, but what stands out is his sudden shift in perspective – from carefree vagabond to grounded star:
Cracking the egg that is pretentiousness is an underrated venture, and who better to remind us of this than the Monkey King of singer songwriters. It’s sage advice that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Besides what fun is it living your life through the eyes of some other lowly schmuck: [LISTEN]
Freewheeling, after hours drunken banter from a guy who’s been through the emotional ringer once or twice. It starts off as a maudlin cautionary tale, full of leisurely strumming and easygoing back slaps, but in a pleasant twist we find out that it’s not so much about pity as it is hope: [LISTEN]
Hanging on to old love is like pushing a boulder up a steep hill – it’s arduous, backbreaking and pretty much pointless. But instead of playing Sisyphus, Mac decides to just let it go. The added percussion and Lennon-like riffing, adds a delightful touch to an otherwise drab situation: [LISTEN]
Giving advice when it’s not asked for is self-righteous and annoying. It puts a cramp in a person’s stride, and distracts from the main objective. For a free spirit like Mac it’s reason enough to let loose, telling all the would-be advisers that they can take their words of wisdom and shove it:
A man works his whole life to get sober and when he does his girl gets kicked out of the country. Put said man in a dark room with nothing more than an acoustic guitar for strumming, a wood block for clinking, and a book full of lyrics for singing, and what you’ll have is a heart-rendering song:
Mac marks his return by indulging in a wry analysis of his newfound fame. He sounds like a docile McCartney – “Rocky Raccoon” McCartney to be exact – but coming from him it sounds as right as rain. It’s an encouraging example of human fallibility without a care as to who’s listening: [LISTEN]
Two years ago Mac as a big brother would have been absurd. But miraculously it works and is a good look for a guy who’s as polite a rock star as can be. It’s a testament to his ability to adjust to life while still letting the music have its say – a compromise that’ll add longevity to his career:
Knuckle grinding boom-baps, plush synth work and self-reflective lyrics, has this sounding like it could have been a bonus track on a Suicide album. It’s a unique step forward that suggests that the sounds is slowly evolving with the man, standing out as precursor for something greater: [LISTEN]
He’s keeping it cool and nonchalant, but brewing underneath is a torrent of emotional magma. The off-kilter chord progression and unusual melodies give it a Refavela meets Sgt. Pepper’s vibe, which suites a maverick like DeMarco well. The genre splicing is a good way to color outside the lines: