Following a move to California and a breather from several years of near-constant touring, indie hero Mac DeMarco emerges with This Old Dog, his third full-length and proper follow-up to 2014's breakout LP Salad Days. More lyrically introspective than previous DeMarco releases, the hallmarks of his now-signature sound are all still here, albeit with subtle shifts in emphasis. The heavily chorused guitar riffs, laid-back drum grooves, and off-kilter soft rock transmutations from his first two LPs mesh with the wobbly synth textures that came to the fore on 2015's excellent mini-album, Another One. Newer to DeMarco's world are the inward self-reflections and thoughtful musings on family, friends, and love that are scattered throughout This Old Dog. Confronting his own prankster public persona on the acoustic guitar and drum machine meditation "My Old Man," he sings "there's a price tag hanging off of having all that fun," setting up the self-realization of how quickly we come to resemble our own parents. DeMarco's father makes further appearances in these songs, most arrestingly on the spare and somber closer, "Watching Him Fade Away," which is easily one of the album's highlights. A similarly spare, though less maudlin mid-album track is also dedicated to his sister. As heavy as some of the moods are, though, it's tough to diminish that sly twinkle that generally adorns DeMarco's delivery and he can't help but cloak his newfound confessionalism in some sunny West Coast grooves, particularly on songs like "Baby You're Out" and "A Wolf Who Wears Sheep's Clothes." "For the First Time" and "On the Level," a pair of woozy keyboard-heavy ballads, feel like an outgrowth of Another One's love song experiment and likely have their roots in those same sessions. In all, This Old Dog is a logical continuation of DeMarco's musical explorations, but the maturation of his songwriting is what gives it gravitas.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger