Mac DeMarco has always sounded considerably more chilled out than he really is. Take 2012’s debut LP proper, ‘2’, for example: the Canadian minstrel testing his capacity for razor-sharp storytelling but still, on tracks like ‘Freaking Out The Neighbourhood’, tying those calypso-inspired guitar lines into knots just for the hell of it. Even when writing songs that were immensely true to life, DeMarco’s most apt observations never came across as actually observational – perhaps because of the gleeful musical distraction, perhaps because he sung with cheek that earned Ferris Bueller comparisons – and it’s a skill he’s transferred onto ‘Salad Days’.

DeMarco has long had a penchant for putting pictures of himself on his album sleeves – on mini album ‘Rock and Roll Nightclub’ he was smearing on lipstick, on ‘2’ making the peace sign – but ‘Salad Days’ sees the most naturalistic pose to date, for an album with songs that also seem more real than ever. If you’ve been to his live shows, you’ll know that conversation comes naturally to him, and rather than telling the stories, here he takes on characters as he has his own conversations.

There’s a whole load of brothers, boys, sisters, and honeys littered throughout this LP. Hooky choruses, slang and slogans are plentiful, and like all good slogans they aren’t hard to spot: ‘Let Her Go’, ‘Treat Her Better’, ‘Let My Baby Stay’. DeMarco, like the Haim girls, has this ability to simultaneously create memorable lines and capture the very simplest relationship truths. ‘Treat Her Better’, for example, is never anything but a pop song whilst still managing surprising tenderness in its handling of love, DeMarco singing: “Treat her better boy/if having her at your side’s/something you enjoy”.

‘Chamber of Reflection’, one of the LP’s standout tracks, is a disco tune that’s been stripped bare and slowed down to an almost standstill. The lyrics are outright pessimistic and its four minutes is otherwise populated by flashes of synth reminiscent of Metronomy on a sad day. It’s the sort of track that should flummox an artist like DeMarco, but it doesn’t because he’s learnt to put more thought into every facet of his songwriting.

Joe Strummer once said, “Don’t write slogans, write truths.” If you need any proof that these two things don’t have to be exclusive then buy ‘Salad Days’. DeMarco was always an artist whose world struggled with simple binaries, but this is an LP combining the pop artist’s unashamed desire to occupy your head all day long and the storyteller’s authenticity, with astounding, electrifying skill.


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