NOTE: This review was written immediately after returning from a Mac DeMarco concert in Cleveland, in which he and his touring bassist licked me in the face (I gave Mac a Valentine and asked for a kiss in return. He obliged me.) and then I talked to him and essentially stared at him as he smoked outside the venue. So what I’m trying to get at is that this may not be the most objective review. But does objectivity have any place in rock criticism anyway?
Mac DeMarco has had a busy year. The Montreal-born, Brooklyn-inhabiting indie rock prankster (who has described his sound as “jizz jazz,” a mix of surf rock textures, jangle pop guitar tones, and soft-spoken crooning) found himself an indie sensation after releasing debut album 2, working with Tyler, the Creator, and developing a beloved live act, known to feature spontaneous nudity and bizarre, profane covers of played-out classic rock chestnuts like “Tears in Heaven” and “Takin’ Care of Business.” His fanbase has grown immensely, and yet he still dresses like a janitor. He has generally become known as the lovable, immature slacker king of indie pop.
Which makes his new album Salad Days, all the more surprising. It is an album of maturity and wisdom, with lush textures and reflective lyrics on aging, feeling lonely, and accepting responsibility. The eponymous, image-obsessed subject of “Blue Boy” is told gently to “calm down, sweetheart, grow up.” The Kinks-y title track reflects on a man who, at age 23, is “acting like [his] life’s already over,” before shaking it off with an assured “act your age and try another year.” The music is about as smooth as bedroom pop can get, with his distinctive guitar tones filled out with melodic basslines and lurching synths.
Of course, it is all delivered with the good humor and easiness that Mac is known for. In modern music lexicon, “mature” is often synonymous with “maudlin,” which DeMarco does not once dip into on Salad Days. For all his newfound maturity, he is still a devoted pop connoisseur, which means that even the heaviest moments on the album are delivered with breezy swagger and irresistible melodies. Album centerpiece “Passing Out Pieces” reflects on the toll his popularity has taken on his private life, with Mac reminding himself that “nothing comes free.” But the song is anchored by a mammoth synth horn line that gives the song a Bowie-esque groove. The catchy melodies of “Goodbye Weekend” make Mac’s requests to not “go telling me how this boy should be leading his own life” sound outright joyous. For all its more serious topics, Salad Days is first and foremost a pleasurable and fun listening experience.
Salad Daysis an absolute delight to listen to. It is stacked with assured, gorgeous pop songs infused with the good nature and humor that Mac has become known for. The man once known for his ironic sensibility and bizarre humor has quickly become the most genuine figure in indie rock.
(And he licked my face last night. Frantically. I just wanted to mention that again.)