Musician prankster Mac DeMarco – prone to public nudity and the occasional floral dress – has never been one to take himself too seriously. So that’s why it’s a bit of a surprise that his third solo album, “Salad Days,” finds him lamenting the loss of youth and alluding to Shakespeare – without losing an ounce of the chain-smoking dreamboat charm that made his first two albums so addictive.
An idiomatic expression in reference to youthful times of idealism, indiscretion and naïveté from Shakespeare’s “Anthony and Cleopatra,” “salad days” are not up for examination on DeMarco’s album, but rather it is their passing that lends a melancholy weight to an otherwise breezy atmosphere of warbly guitar tones and hazy synths.
Just a few weeks shy of his 24th birthday, DeMarco seems poised to hasten the onset of a midlife crisis in his 20-something cult following, crooning, “Watching my life, passing right in front of my eyes / Hell of a story, oh is it boring?” on “Passing Out Pieces.” And it’s no surprise he’s fatigued; he began recording “Salad Days” in his Brooklyn apartment-dubbed “The Meat Wallet” after touring nonstop for more than a year.
“I feel sort of weathered and beat down and grown up all of a sudden,” DeMarco says in an interview with Pitchfork. “I’ve always had some kind of plateau that I wanted to reach, and now I just can’t see the next one.”
The balancing of mature introspection and fun on “Salad Days,” proves that DeMarco has ascended to a new plateau — one that takes the carefree sonic elements of his previous odes to Viceroy cigarettes and suburban boredom and expertly melds them with the “generally speaking I’m fine” disaffection of anyone biding farewell to the teen daze of youth.
The 11 tracks of upfront, honest lyrics did not come about by accident. In the company of two packs of cigarettes a day, DeMarco avoided writing songs “about absolutely nothing” with ambiguous lyrics, and instead delivered gems like “always feeling tired / smiling when required” and the lyrical anxiety of “worried about the world’s eyes, worried every time the sun shines.”
Anxiety and disaffection, however, do not come up on a Google search of the Canadian-born musician. You’re more likely to find the exploration of his feminine side in the video for “My Kind of Woman” from his album “2,” his recent wanderings on the rooftops of Portugal for “Let My Baby Stay,” or his curious birth name, which is actually Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV.
What makes DeMarco’s third solo outing damn near perfect is that he hasn’t lost his slacker soul in the midst of all his existential musings on the passage of time. The album deserves both a round of solitary listening and a hallowed spot on every party playlist.
“Salad Days” is certainly a thematic shift for DeMarco — one that’s certain to expand his cult following. It owes much of its perfection to a willingness on DeMarco’s part to get a little sad and introspective, while, you know, revealing his genitalia during concerts.
“Salad Days”drops April 1 on Captured Tracks.
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