Whether you care or not about Mac DeMarco well-documented on-stage antics or recklessness slacker-head persona, doesn’t really matter, it’s impossible not to like the guy anyway. Salad Days, his first record since 2012 breakout album 2, sticks to his slippery, codeine styled jangle-pop, but glossier, more melodic and if possible, even more memorable. With each new release (Salad Days count as his third), DeMarco peels of one more layer of his goofy façade, revealing that perhaps he isn’t the ‘shithead’ some people made him out to be. And with each layer comes stronger songs, longer lasting melodies and, believe it or not, more cordial lyrics.
DeMarco opens the album with the line “As I’m getting older / chip upon my shoulder / Rolling through life to roll over and die”, showing an early sign of a deepened meditation. And while Salad Days isn’t fundamentally different from 2, it’s obvious that we’re hearing a fairly serious DeMarco. The protracted touring that followed his sudden success with 2 has yielded a weathered and more sober 23-years old; “What mama don’t know has taken its toll on me / It’s all I see / It can’t be wiped clean / It’s hard to believe what it’s made of me”, he sings on “Passing Out Pieces”. Likewise “Blue Boy” continues in the same tone, depicting him “worried about the world’s eyes / worried every time the sun shines”. When his not indulging in self-reflection, he is giving love advice to his friends; “Tell her that you love her / If you really love her / But if your heart just ain’t sure / Let her know”, he sings on “Let Her Go” in his characteristically prosaic style.
Thankfully, even a more serious De Marco is refreshingly unpretentious and relatable. And besides, in his case, maturity isn’t the same thing as boring, and it doesn’t take away much from his goofball charm; “calm down sweetheart, grow up”, he advises himself on “Blue Boy”, wittily undercutting the serious tone with self-mockery. More than anything, Salad Days prove that maturity doesn’t mean creative death. While most of the songs hold on to 2’s chiming guitars and jingly-jangly psych-pop, colorfully expressed by the catchy “Let Her Go” and the tender lead-single “Brother”, the B-side reveals a few brilliant deviations from the formula. The skewed Sgt. Pepper-rocker “Passing Out Pieces” is one such highlight, and has grown considerably on me since I moaned about its lack of his signature six-strings. And besides, the biggest revelation of Salad Days is a guitar-less and mostly synth-based number. The pitch-bended vintage keyboards, languid organs and off-kilter vocals make “Chamber Of Reflection” a deeply odd but clever aberration from DeMarco’s self-proclaimed “jizz-jazz”-formula. It stands as the albums pinnacle, dressing an already accomplished album with that extra spice while making us wonder how a future DeMarco album might end up sounding like.