Mac Demarco has always made music that lingers in weird spaces. Touches of 70s soft rock, lo fi indie, and passing glances over into outsider art. Demarco writes songs that are strangely upbeat while also feeling a little seedy; like having a conversation with a stranger that starts out seemingly benign but gradually gets uncomfortable.
Besides the wonky nature of Mac Demarco, he’s made some great weirdo pop albums. 2, Salad Days, and This Old Dog are filled with head bopping tunes that feel both odd yet familiar. Like an alien’s take on 70s singer/songwriter fare. Demarco seems unapologetic in both his love of nostalgia for naked earnestness and the fart joke he’s about to tell you from the stage.
Five Easy Hot Dogs is Mac Demarco’s new album, and it isn’t so much an album as a melancholy mood piece. All instrumental, the album was conceived while Demarco took a days-long road trip and vowed not to return to his home until he wrote a new album. As a follow-up to 2019s Here Comes The Cowboy it doesn’t feel much like a follow-up. More an in-between oddity to fill the void while finishing touches are made on the “real” follow-up. But as albums go to play when feeling a little moody or melancholy, Five Easy Hot Dogs does the trick.
One of the main things that has drawn me to Mac Demarco is his gift for melody, especially albums like Salad Days and This Old Dog. Amazing pop melodies along with his use of “vintage”(i.e. old and dilapidated) gear gives his songs a feeling of finding some long lost group of tunes by an artist long retired or no longer among the living. There’s a sadness to his songs. Not depressing, but wistful.
“Gualala” opens the album with a lackadaisical rhythm, gently strummed acoustic, and a subtle synth touch. This is the mold for what follows. Same tempo, too. That of staring out a car window at 65 miles an hour while the scenery blurs into oblivion. “Gualala 2” continues that vibe, though gauzier and wobblier. “Portland” has an easy-breezy quality, like Paul Simon on downers. And you get the feeling that this road trip was an overcast affair, with heavy amounts of grays, washed-out whites, and the occasional streak of blue for good measure.
Five Easy Hot Dogs is born from its namesake(Bob Rafelson’s excellent 1970 film Five Easy Pieces.) Much like the film, Five Easy Hot Dogs is a melancholy, contemplative piece work that feels like an overcast road trip to nothing in-particular, with the urge to keep driving to look for something else just around the corner. –J Hubner