MUSIC REVIEW | Mac Demarco – Salad Days (2014)


Generally I don’t like lo-fi stuff. With modern technology, a band doesn’t need that much money to make something that sounds half professional. But when I see something I don’t like being turned on its head, or broadened in some, cool, new way, I’m intrigued and appreciate the effort, even if I don’t like the music. Mac Demarco takes a li-fi attitude and stripped back approach to arrangements, then adds a lush sheen that makes me appreciate the effort, and really appreciate the music, with Salad Days.

Mac Demarco has no time for niceties like intros. His vocals and melodic hook kick in with the first note of Salad Days and we’re off. No muss, no fuss, just straight into the meat of the song from the get go. I like his style. It’s a gentle mix of precious guitar, precious vocals and precious drums that somehow adds to be too substantial to ever be called precious.

Almost talk-singing, if Demarco has pipes, he’s hiding it on Blue Boy. But that doesn’t stop him from finding plenty of life and variation in his seemingly limited range. He writes to fit that range and gets every bit of emotion out of it possible.

Next up, Brother keeps that same sound, but livens it up with some Dire Straits style guitars in their lushness. In every other way, it’s slower, quieter and smaller than what Salad Days rolled out before now, but that rich, super produced guitar sound floats in and out, making this song bigger in some ways.

With Let Her Go and Goodbye Weekend, I realised something about Salad Days, it’s a perfect summer album. Not daytime, weekend summer, fuelled by beer and barbecues. But dusk and early evening summer in the middle of the week, when things are quiet and everyone’s just trying to make it through the heat, hoping if they stay still long enough, that slight breeze might find them.

I usually hate it when a decent musician deliberately does things a little badly, like refuses to tune their guitar. But I’m kind of impressed by Demarco’s dedication to somehow get a keyboard out of tune for Chamber of Reflection. If it had been in the opening minutes of Salad Days, it would have turned me off the entire album. But coming here, close to the end, it fits the aesthetic that’s been perfectly built by the record until this point.

If someone described Mac Demarco and this album to me, I wouldn’t be inclined to listen. It seems chock full of musical approaches, gimmicks and affectations that usually just bug me. Yet, Salad Days uses those approaches, gimmicks and affectations to make something new, something different and something immensely listenable. More importantly, they make something re-listenable.

Mac Demarco

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