ALBUM REVIEW: THIS OLD DOG by MAC DEMARCO

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

It’s easy to forget the dual nature of Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco: the smoking-like-a-chimney, drumstick in the ass quirky man-child has accumulated quite the fanbase over the duration of his career, falling in love with his smooth attempts at slacker rock, grated over with that trademark ape dinky charm. That’s not to insinuate that DeMarco has never crafted a serious track in his life, the underrated mini-album Another One explored love from multiple perspectives and Salad Days‘ emotive little gem ‘Let My Baby Stay‘ was a standout upon its release, but this mature songwriting always seems to be overshadowed by either some of his more experimental work or eccentric online and irl persona. 

On this topic of sensible songwriting, Mac seems to be finally setting into adulthood having just turned 27 last month, something he approached in classic fashion by announcing he was gonna be a father which shocked his now internet icon mother Agnes. Hell, he’s already bought his first house, a necessity after sharing his address at the end of My House By The Water (“a couple thousand people came to visit: we made a lot of coffee”).With this all in mind, it’s no surprise that fourth LP This Old Dog is his most mature to date, allowing some serious lyricism and songwriting to shine through, making for what is arguably his best work yet.

 

Don’t fret about having another white guy making another half-arsed political album about why Trump is bad and technology = not good though. As you’d expect from a slacker rock champion, DeMarco doesn’t really fret about this kind of area, not because he doesn’t care but because he doesn’t want to stick his nose in where it doesn’t belong. After all, we’re talking about the same guy who, after being asked about the fear of nuclear war, replied with “hopefully nuclear war doesn’t happen, that would really blow ass“, the closest we’ll ever get to a political opinion from the jizz-jazz pioneer.

Instead of looking outwards, Mac keeps his focus on himself and those around him which leads to some of the darkest subject matter he’s ever covered. With the album being lead by a single titled ‘My Old Man‘, it’s no surprise that This Old Dog touches on the topic of fatherhood though more the lack thereof. It’s so subtle though that you’d be forgiven for not realising it sooner though: on the aforementioned opener, our 20-a-day protagonist strums away while nervously observing that “I’m seeing more of my old man in me”, preceded by an uh oh which makes far more sense when you’re made aware that his dad was an alcoholic and addict of whom he knows very little about. My Old Man manages to scope out two vistas of the DeMarco music landscape, the “cracking a cold one with the boys” sunshine relaxing and the introspective mesmerisation, and merge them both together seamlessly.

This narrative comes to its conclusion on, well, the conlcluding track ‘Watching Him Fade Away’, a far more on the nose single which is the most stripped back song both in terms of instrumentals and subtlety: DeMarco has said this would be his equivalent of an acoustic album but lone synthesised pianos fuel this track, leaving the lyrics to fully shine and steal the spotlight. Weirdly enough though, Mac never gets truly soppy on this subject, outright saying “the thought of him no longer being around, well, sure it would be sad but not really different“. It would be easy enough to make some cheesy farewell to his father but with the album either exploring his actions, like on ‘Moonlight On The River’, or ones similar via Mac‘s stories, the heartache ofStill Beating, it thematically makes more sense to wrap the album up with a shrug of the shoulders rather than a grandiose weeping song.

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There’s more to This Old Dog than just being torn apart about being sad or indifferent to a parent dying. Via the trodden father route, DeMarco manages to explore this quarter-life style crisis, worrying about the present and future when having his focus shifted at the past: he may be a goofy character but This Old Dog sees Mac become very harsh with himself, criticising his appearance via the third person and comparing himself to someone he politely described as being “a piece of shit”.

The shortest track on the whole album yet possibly the most moving, Sister is another minamilstic song though one that acts as more of a tribute, in this case for Mac‘s half-sister Holly. Whether it be the seemingly intentionally eerie strumming or the emotion christened opening lines of “turns out not every dog has his day”, the track helps bring out a dark side to Mac‘s music that has always been brewing but has now been made fit for consumption.

Anyone who hasn’t been able to get on board with the acoustic musings of Canada’s sweetheart will probably not be converted: many of the foundations that DeMarco has built since 2 are still in sight though much of what’s been built on them are precisely built albeit bare in design. For an album solely lead, recorded and engineered by one man, This Old Dog does enough sonically to keep interest peaked though thematically and lyrically is where it shines. It’s still very much the same stoner demeanor that has made Mac such a star but covering more serious themes allows him to keep both camps satisfied.

It could soundtrack another alcohol fueled campfire gathering with some of its trademark stylings, just don’t be surprised if you end up a bit existential. 

8.5/10

Favourite album so far, Mac is back! Really love it and will be recommending it to lots! 8/10 – Will Sexton (@willshesleeps)


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Blink and you’ll miss it! (7/06/2015)

A bit of context before I start this blog post. I’ve been writing music reviews and other articles for nearly 2 years now. Something I started off as just a passtime has become a big part of my life and now that I’m studying journalism in Glasgow, I’ve managed to improve my articles dramatically (if you’re able to find my review on Mumford from 2013 then avoid it at all costs). I’ve spent a huge chunk of time reviewing big bands and now that I’ve managed to get some attention from my blog, I thought it would be silly not to shed some light on the new and upcoming artists that I think are bound for success. Although my word will not magically transform them into the next Biffy or Bowie, if even one person gives these artists some attention then I’ll have did my bit. Moving on, here’s the first installment in a series of posts about the bands and individuals who deserve your attention:

Amy Louise Rogers
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The rise of acoustic guitar wielding teens has been nothing short of amazing, being inspired by a lot of musicians who had the same origins as them such as some of Scotland’s finest like Paolo Nutini. However with Amy, her exposure to older music has had an impact on her music even if it’s not been easy to detect so far. “The music my dad showed me had a big effect on me such as Fleetwood Mac and Big Country” she said when we were talking about her music which includes her upcoming debut album Her Imagination where she’ll be showing the creativity that her influencers had in bucketloads. ” It’s gonna feature a whole lot of instruments that I’ve never used in past works hidden in there is some violin , electric guitar , banjo , and even a kazoo line!”. Anyone who’s interested in hearing more from her will be happy to know her new single Problems (She Wants To Be A Marine Biologist)  is released on the 20th of June so there’s not much longer to go to experience some pop folk goodness.
Spotify: Amy Louise Rogers |         Youtube       |      Facebook

Sweet White
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Just one listen to this 5 piece indie band’s latest single How You Feel and you’ll know why Sweet White are worth your attention. “Catchy as funk, sharp indie rock numbers guided by pop sensibilities” it says on the Peterhead boy’s site and they’re not wrong with the tracks reeking of psychedelic sounds. The interesting thing about the band is how important every member is to the works. Whereas many bands have one or two members whose abilities help to shoot the band into stardom, Sweet White have 5. With Kyle Drysdale and Ruairidh Sandison on guitar alongside James Butcher on Bass, the band are able to craft some insanely addictive riffs and melodies, Flesh ‘N’ Blood on their 2013 Eponymously titled EP being vaguely reminiscent to the likes of Foals in various ways with a hint of Peace’s Bloodshake for good measure. Not only that but frontman Jake Cordiner is gifted with a flexible yet powerful voice that manages to impress just as much in live performances as it does recorded, possessing the same scottish tang in his singing voice that people associate with the likes of Simon Neil and Scott Hutchison. Last but certainly not least, Shaun Wilson’s drum playing is essential to the band’s funky rhythm that’ll have you coming back time and time again and from their performance I saw back in April, he and his bandmates look natural on stage, looking relaxed and never faltering. If you live near Glasgow and have no plans for tonight, or even if you do have some, get over to Nice N Sleazy tonight for 8PM to witness the guys in action alongside Codist for £2, you won’t regret it.

Site | Soundcloud | Spotify: Sweet White | Facebook | Twitter

Cheapside

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Starting off life as Floorboards before changing to Cheapside, this Glasgow 4 piece pop punk band are sort of a rarity at the moment. When I was talking to drummer Josh, he praised the Glasgow music scene for its diversity, calling it absolutely incredible. However pop punk is a genre that seems to be less apparent in the music scene with the likes of indie rock bands and solo acts taking up a large chunk of the scene. You’d think for a band that’s genre is usually full of pessimistic attitudes that it would put them off but Josh thinks differently. Unlike artists such as Noel Gallagher who constantly slate the state of music nowadays, Josh said it was in pretty good condition and any musician with a positive attitude towards music is one to keep an eye on. Not only did he have a positive attitude but when asked if Danny DeVito was to be a member of the band, he said he’d offer him his place on drums, manners and everything. As he listed off his influences, it wasn’t that difficult to see how much of an impact they had on him and the band as a whole. “The first sort of rock music I got into was blink-182, biffy clyro and the foo fighters so just listening to Travis Barker, Ben Johnston and Taylor Hawkins made me want to be in a band.” From the demos alone, Cheapside have the rawness and untidiness of early biffy ,helped by both Josh on drums and Ian Gordon & Dan Drennan on guitar, which is strangely appealing to the ears alongside a Tom Delonge-esque delivery from John Sim. The band are currently looking for a bass player so if you think you’ve got what it takes then don’t hesitate to contact the band because from what’s been hinted at so far, there’s something special bound to be crafted.

Bandcamp | Facebook |Twitter

So that’s the first entry in what I’m hoping will be a weekly sort of series. If you want to be considered for it then don’t hesitate to contact me by email (liammenzies96@gmail.com) or by twitter (@blogclyro)!

 

Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love review

Paolo Nutini is a hard one to pigeon hole. While most artists find a sound that serves them well and stick to it for album after album, the Paisley born singer song-writer continues to delve into different genres in each of his album releases with his debut These Streets containing a nice blend of Pop and Rock whilst his follow up Sunny Side Up expertly blended R&B and Ska like a Kenwood smoothie maker. After a five year hiatus though, has he managed to keep this trend and quality up?Image

The answer? Of course he has. All you have to do is listen to Iron Sky, one of the album’s finest tracks which is a beautiful blend of both soul and raw compassion that highlights Nutini’s trademark raspy voice that never ceases to amaze you throughout the album’s 13 track duration. Opening track Scream (Funk My Life Up) is an upbeat, funk infused song reminiscent of the sound of James Brown whilst Numpty mixes it up with a more frisky sound and a chorus that’ll inscribe itself into your head after a few listens.

However, where Caustic Love really shines is when Nutini infuses this amazing soul sounds with personal lyrics which he delivers in an apologetic sound. Point in case? The track One Day, which follows up the interlude every RnB album needs, has Paolo saying all the corners of our pictures are a long time afraid, they still symbolize what you mean to me”, showcasing his ability to tap into the deep emotional reserves that allow this track to stand out. The closing track Someone Like You is another example of these lyrics with a much simpler sound which makes for a peaceful and nonchalant conclusion.Image

Some may lump Nutini unknowingly alongside other artists like James Blunt and James Morrison just because he plays guitar and sings. With Caustic Love, Nutini showcases talent that is unparalleled to any other solo artist in Britain today and one that’s bound to develop and improve after each successive record. So sit back, put your earphones on and enjoy the soulful sound that’ll transport you to the 80’s, no DeLorean needed.