It’s amazing to see just how far 23 year old Montreal based songwriter has made it since his debut EP Rock & Roll Nightclub: a disjointed, brooding feat of bizarre neo-glam that proved itself as a perfect introduction to Mac’s goofy persona. He then followed this up with his debut full length album 2, a cleaner, more upbeat record, that traded the irony of Rock & Roll Nightclub with pure slacker honesty. The follow up to 2; Salad Days is an obvious step forward in Mac Demarco’s career, taking the most prominent aspects of the debut album and building on them in a way where the album feels completely new but at the same time offers a sense of comfort, as if it’s been with you forever.
The opening self titled track is a perfect example of this, kicking off right away with a confused, laid-back yet complex riff, played out with a jangle that has become synonymous with Demarco’s guitar playing. The track then enters a sort of Kinks-like bridge of la-la-las before slowing down into a chorus overflowing with nostalgia. Or take example of the third song on the album “Brother”, or even the following track “Let Her Go”: both songs which feature lyrics that could double as advice passed down from older to younger brother. On the core most tracks on this album could easily sound like they belong on 2, but the cleaner production, more complex song structure, and lyrics that delve deeper into themes of love, nostalgia, and the coping of fame tell us otherwise.
Another difference most listeners will easily grasp is the production change. Keeping the same sort of laid-back aura of his previous records, the cleaner studio sound helps clear up any loose ends, keeping the instrumentation as tight as possible. However, calling this album “tight” would be a lie; in fact, Demarco takes pride in the sloppiness of his music. It’s this signature use of slop that gives his music charisma, and that draws a clear line between Demarco’s music and everybody else’s.
Salad Days also features a much wider range of instrumentation than his previous endeavours. A great example of this is in the album’s first single “Passing Out Pieces”, a track led primarily by a greasy organ line. The 9th track on the album “Chamber Of Reflection” also utilizes a strong synth lead. While Demarco is known for making mostly guitar oriented indie-rock, he’s shown us that his musical range is in fact much wider than we thought.
Mac Demarco has certainly grown up and has made it obvious in this newest record: his lyrics have grown more meaningful, his songwriting stronger, and his range much wider. Like he said in an interview preceding the release of this record, “I didn’t want to freak anybody out with a huge sound change. I wanted to transition without changing the vibe too much”, and this is exactly what he did, releasing a new, original album, without having to change himself.