A quiet “one, two, three, four” preludes album opener “Gualala,” serving as the only words on Mac DeMarco’s new instrumental album. Taking only enough recording equipment to fit inside his Toyota, DeMarco’s Five Easy Hot Dogs came to life on a solo road trip with the places he visited becoming the names of the songs, sonically documenting his stops through the prairies and along the west and eastern seaboards.
His first full-length release since 2019’s Here Comes the Cowboy, from the outset, it has the same breezy fingerpicking, rich but simple drum lines, crawling bass rhythms, and propelling flares of jazzy groove from albums past. His guerilla recording style speaks to his continued ability to ease into a slipstream of spontaneous creativity.
The album has the feel of a deep untethered exhale on a trip with no return commitments, where details of the journey are discovered in real-time. Songs like “Gualala 2” and “Edmonton 2” uncover hints of an inner restlessness or tender melancholy, similar to the discomfort of his own nicotine withdrawal. This is juxtaposed by the melodies of “Vancouver” and “Edmonton,” reflecting the curious joys of returning to places he once lived.
As on most long drives, thoughts drift in and out while listening to Five Easy Hot Dogs, returning you to the music without much of a fuss. In the same way that DeMarco is uncommitted to any length of stay or the number of songs dedicated to a particular place, he does not expect much of those listening.
Denying this particular album a theme or sound in mind, one wonders what, subconsciously, DeMarco is either driving from or returning to. Is he driving away from his growing fame to be his own version of an authentic musician, or returning to a purer songwriting method closer to the DIY ethic permeating his artistic ethos? Maybe both.