Mac’s back, on Captured Tracks.
Early singles This Old Dog and My Old Man suggested a melancholy and contemplative comedown after the slightly lurching romance of Another One. MOM swings out in the wise charm direction of Brother (see later the brotherly Salad Days jangle of One Another). It’s like the spirit of Salad Days blown into the images of KV’s Pretty Pimpin’ and left to cool to a cinder.
It shuffles into TOD which is more moonlit and almost grizzled; probably a better look for gloomy Mac in 2017, with his weary reaction to carefreedom refined to a reflection upon changeability and persistence (apparently there’s an over-arching narrative here about his dad, but on the rumbly bus back from Ox I can’t really be bothered to pick it out – actually it does come out nicely in the BoC-synthy ballad closer). All interesting but just fine (La Blogotheque did quite a good show with Mac playing these first two in a Parisian park, failing to converse with locals).
Baby You’re Out is funkier (Lough bemoaned the upstroke percussive blobs but I like the dominant skippy jaunt), and has a singalong hook that will go down well among the Being Mac Demarco crowds at the summer festivals. For the First Time starts sultry but ultimately feels like a dirge – however, the queasy Chamber-of-Reflection synths are the first glimpse (in the tracklisting) of the alternate-future TOD glimpsed in the album’s best single, On the Level (Homeshake has cut ties with Mac now, I believe, but still see the parallels with some of the best tracks off his effort this year). Comes in third-to-last, one of my favourites of the year – it’s almost garishly simple but still maintains a rolling determined groove (in the lyrics too).
One Another, again, is a minor SD cut. Still Beating is interestingly fragile but also feels brittle and fillery. Sister is an afterthought, a non-centrepiece. It’s followed by Dreams from Yesterday which infuses some of Mac’s mid-period stoner bliss into the dusky percussion of the opening singles. There’s also a slight return of the synths, picking up the string and unspooling towards On the Level (it’s coming). It’s better as a song than the others in this middle section but it still has that victory-lap sensibility which makes this a pretty arid central section.
Morning light on A Wolf Who Wears Sheep’s Clothes; reads like an apology for (both senses) the album (“just trying to keep it light sometimes casts a shadow”). Has some of the upstroke pep of Baby You’re Out. One More Love Song starts like a return to that snoozy middle but it does have a nice piano-led hook (will take this over For The First Time – Mac I might just trim an EP out of your flabby album).
I’ll keep On The Level. “Boy, this could be your year…” Actually if it didn’t have such a great groove I’d be coming back more often to Moonlight on the River which has a weird meditative depth, an elegant hook and a discordant, valedictory fuzz-out. “It’s so strange / deciding / how I feel about you.” Almost summative enough to tie everything else together.
It’s not that the jig is up – Mac is always a good songwriter and I’m always happy just to sit with him. Last couple of projects have appeared a little naked without the proper Album clothing. Plenty of filler (how? without MOTR it’s 35 minutes), some variety that mostly seems to promise disappointingly unrealised sounds. Pleasant but I don’t really need it.