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Album Review: Mac DeMarco’s “Five Easy Hot Dogs” is Driving in Circles

Mac DeMarco’s new album, “Five Easy Hot Dogs”, is full of idyllic instrumentals that pick up from his indie-blues project “All of Our Yesterdays”. Mac’s blues are rooted in nostalgia for a distant past. The title of his newest album is a reference to Jack Nicholson’s 1970 film “Five Easy Pieces”.

“Five Easy Hot Dogs” was created over a rambling four-month road trip, where DeMarco didn’t “go home to Los Angeles until [he] had a record,” according to his site. Mac didn’t perform any shows on this journey. He simply drifted through North America, writing songs as he went. The jaunting chronological album matches his free-loving nature. After recording each song, he would explore the city, letting fans guide him through unfamiliar streets. While some of his friends weren’t in town, Mac got to stay with Snail Mail’s Lindsay Jordan and recorded with rapper Lil Yachty.

Just like his impromptu parade through North American cities, Mac didn’t have a theme or plan in mind when recording. “Luckily the collection of recordings from this period all shake hands” he noted on his site. “Five Easy Hot Dogs” is Mac’s second instrumental album, his first since “Another One” in 2015.

The album artwork for “Five Easy Hot Dogs”.

This album is a slow burn filled with bumbling guitars grounded by a sturdy drum machine. The songs featuring his bass are some of the strong points on the album.

Dim fuzzy synths mumbles over a lackadaisical guitar riff in “Gualula 2”, a song that hums like a lone car on a vacant interstate, its back to a rising sun.

“Vancouver” features a jangling guitar careening over a clacketing drum machine, with a meditative bass humming on the surface.

“Chicago 2” is one of the most complete songs on the album, a song that floats like rose petals flying in the wind. Synths flutter throughout the idyllic track.

On this album, Mac distances himself from his causal fanbase with purposeful steps. There are great pockets on this somber album that take listeners to lonely highways and empty backroads, but it is too repetitive. The songs never take off: they spread a groundwork, then remain idle before petering off into the next track. Still, I enjoyed listening to it. It’s a great listen for an early Sunday morning, or bumbling around throughout the city on foot, but these simple songs don’t have the staying power or replay value of his last project.

This record is an enjoyable easy listen. Mac, who quit smoking during his road trip, took another step to improve himself. This meditative album from Mac’s journey back and forth across America reads like a personal statement more than anything else. Gone are his destructive “Rock and Roll Night Club” days – Mac is on the right track.