By Devon Risner, Contributor
[Mac’s Record Label, 2023]
Key Tracks: “Victoria”, “Crescent City”
Whether DeMarco is retiring is still up for debate. Entering 2023 with a new record, Five Easy Hot Dogs, it leaves to question if he will quit at his peak. Moving away from his younger sound of “the laid-back prince of indie rock” claimed by The New York Times in 2017, to a much more mature and instrumental approach.
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Similar in tonal color to Here Comes the Cowboy, DeMarco delivers beautiful songwriting and instrumentation. The new record being all instrumental, it peels back the layers of his carefree vocals and instead focuses that mellow energy onto the inflection of arrangement. All of the familiar warbly, slightly out-of-tune guitars are there along with his signature drum sound and soft vintage keys.
Unfortunately, very few tracks stand out as something to throw on when the room calls for DeMarco. Maybe he intended to go in a different direction and focus more on his skills as a musician while also just being Mac. His love for music and strong discography of influences from artists such as Neil Young, John Lennon, and The Smiths always direct him to create beautiful tracks no matter the tempo. The record as a whole brings a great mellow feeling and is undoubtedly within his style. But, without vocals, I can see most fans skipping this record.
The album opens with “Gualala” and follows into “Gualala 2” which seem to be some of the better tracks on the album. They feel like complete songs with catchy riffs and verse-chorus structure, but they just don’t have vocals. This is a good way to describe the album as a whole: they feel like complete songs you’d find on a royalty-free music website. Although some tracks stand out, such as “Victoria” and “Crescent City”, most feel just a little boring. One thing about DeMarco’s music is the instrumental detail. The track “Portland 2” has great inserts of percussion instruments, and “Vancouver 3” has a crash in the perfect spot while being placed softly in the back of the mix.
One of the real highlights of the record is the production. The mix sounds great, nothing is out of place. This album could bring the best out of a good pair of headphones. Great low bass that’s not too boomy but feels present, percussion feels great with a classic vintage drum sound that is a staple from DeMarco. The acoustic guitars sound like they cost $40 in the best way possible.
Five Easy Hot Dogs all come together in a short 35 minutes to be nice coffee shop music. If this truly is Mac DeMarco’s last album then, unfortunately, it is a disappointing one to end on. His songwriting, producing, and general sound are at its peak. However, releasing this album without words may be a risk. It may flop commercially, but it feels like this album is more for the love of music. Hopefully, indie rock’s favorite Canadian continues to release music, and hopefully something with his goofy yet profoundly beautiful vocals.