When press releases announced Mac DeMarco’s sophomore album Salad Days as his “mature” album, there were probably more than a few eye rolls. The young Canadian musician has built his name on gleeful anarchy. Concerts often feature nudity, goofy one-liners, and a set-closing medley that includes “Taking Care Of Business” and “Enter Sandman.” Then there’s his appearance: a rumpled t-shirt, jokey ball cap, and a big gap-toothed smile that lets you in on the joke way before the punchline.
Yet the first words uttered on Salad Days are “As I’m gettin’ older / Chip up on my shoulder / Rollin’ through life / You roll over and die.” Life seems to be laughing back at him–the mocking backup vocals confirm that–as he lives on the road. He’s starting to sell out mid-sized venues across the country, and that’s kind of freaking him out. Salad Days is full of this kind of inward melancholy, but it’s buried beneath DeMarco’s unique sonic signature. He mixes smooth R&B-style licks with a slacker’s charm, and despite his devil-may-care look, DeMarco played all the instruments himself. On “Passing Out Pieces,” he constructs a candy-colored psych ballad only to knock it all down with a critique of his own chosen career (“Passing out pieces of me / don’t you know nothing comes free”). The “sad clown” hat is a difficult one to pull off–it can often come across as self-involved–but DeMarco sells it perfectly, in his weirdly imperfect way.
Catch Mac DeMarco on Sunday, April 13 at the Mohawk.