Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

by Sean Phillips

Two years after the release of the critically acclaimed 2, Mac DeMarco (or Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV if you prefer his full name) returns with his third record and second full length LP, Salad Days, released via New York’s Captured Tracks.

Deride the man all you fancy - Mac DeMarco as a prospect just shouldn’t work. Having pitched up in Williamsburg, New York (a true metropolis for hipsters) from Edmonton via Vancouver, shabbily dressed in stoner-chic with an attitude to match, Mac’s successful trajectory from slacker troubadour to selling out New York’s Webster Hall (1,500 capacity) within two years defies the persona. Having made a name with 2012’s Rock And Roll Night Club EP, Mac swiftly followed with 2, the universally acclaimed debut LP and one of 2012’s finest records. The album was marked out by Mac’s penchant for wistful, jangly guitar lines (see Freaking Out The Neighbourhood) and witty anecdotes (e.g. Ode To Viceroy, a tribute to a brand of fags). The soundtrack to any slacker’s dream day out.

Choosing not to transcend the winning formula too far, Salad Days comes as a welcome refinement to Mac’s previous work and cements him as one of indie’s finest prospects. Whilst the stoner vibes have remained, opener Salad Days defines Mac’s new matured sound both musically and lyrically. By his own admission, the process of writing Salad Days was a complicated one, occurring during a formative period of the 23 year old’s life. Growing up is clearly on his mind and its themes aren’t lost in his lyricism. From the wonderfully dreamy Brother, which ends with a wonderfully psychedelic crescendo, Mac launches into the sun-drenched Let Her Go, displaying the diverse scope of sounds and influences Mac has incorporated in defining his sound (everything from the Beach Boys to Tame Impala). He then drifts into the melancholic ballad, Treat Her Better, which starts sounding like Connan Mockasin, before developing into one of the finest moments on the record that provides a wonderful insight into Mac’s mind (circa 2013) and sound advice to any young couple.

Nearing the close of the LP we hear Chamber Of Reflections, perhaps the finest track that Mac has penned yet. This is a wonderfully sentimental synth-driven ballad of lonely contemplation that really stands out on this stellar record, and is Mac’s most sonically exploratory track. That doesn’t stop him from goofing around at the end of Jonny’s Odyssey however, with a final shout-out for the fans: “Thanks for joining me, see you again soon, buh-bye.” It’s a welcome ending to an assured release which comes at a perfect time, just weeks from summer. This record showcases a maturing sound from a maturing artist who doesn’t plan on ‘growing up’ any time soon.