Five Easy Hotdogs | Sydney Hecht
Updated: Jan 25
Last January, Indie Rock artist Mac DeMarco spontaneously decided to begin his greatest adventure yet: a road trip across North America.
The catch? The trip was only called off once he created an entire album.
Beginning in Northern California, DeMarco packed his bags and set out for the west coast, hitting major cities like Portland and San Francisco, and even driving further into Vancouver and Victoria, Canada. Then, he set off to Chicago, and then to Queens, New York. Then, unsatisfied with his work so far, he did the whole trip once more. By the end of his four-month journey, he created an entirely instrumental kind of “road map” of a record, documenting the most memorable destinations he visited. Thus, Five Easy Hot Dogs was born, DeMarco’s sixth studio album that was released to the public last Friday, January 20.
Anyone familiar with the Indie-Rock genre of music is no stranger to Mac DeMarco’s unmistakeable, unique sound–My Kind of Woman and Freaking Out the Neighborhood, released in 2012 on his second album, Salad Days, songs that still remain popular to this day. Later, tracks like For the First Time, Chamber of Reflection, and Another (Demo) One #2, helped him uphold his reputation as, what the New York Times has referred to as, the “Loveable Laid-Back Prince of Indie Rock.” What captures listeners most about DeMarco’s music is his one-of-a-kind sound; in past records, particularly in his 2017 album, This Old Dog, each track’s spidery guitar riffs and captivating synth melodies contribute to an incredibly dynamic product. Rather than creating music specifically for a radio audience or for social media (a sentiment that he actually disses in an interview with Variety), DeMarco is known for staying true to his own stripped, acoustic, summery sound, one that will keep loyal fans (like myself, of course) listening for years to come.
Five Easy Hot Dogs, in terms of artistry and sound, is incredibly on-brand for Mac DeMarco. Fans and musicians alike can pick up his familiar, playful sound in songs like Chicago and Vancouver. His slower, more acoustic roots manifest themselves in Crescent Bay’s smooth, horn-filled melody. However, Five Easy Hot Dogs fails to keep the listeners interest, as DeMarco’s signature sound is unable to give the song a true feeling of direction without the lyrics to support his unconventional style. Rather, each song feels repetitive, and leads the listener to feel as if swept away in an unpredictable, endless journey of their own.
This feeling certainly isn’t due to a lack of depth–the mixing and layering of each track creates a dynamic sound that is typically dominated by a bouncy guitar riff (of course, in true Mac DeMarco fashion). DeMarco substitutes the traditional, standard drum kit for shakers in both Victoria and Vancouver, pushing the staccato of the guitar track into the forefront. Edmonton provides a necessary break from the three different tracks inspired by Vancouver, and refreshes the listener before they reach the album’s four remaining tracks. Each of Five Easy’s fourteen tracks work together in harmony to create, all-in-all, an enjoyable album. What is missing from the album, however, is a punch–a way to separate the smooth guitar and dynamic percussion. This is where, as both a fan and a musician myself, I notice the quality of the album tends to slip.
Regardless, Five Easy Hot Dogs is an album worth a listen. The project forces listeners to analyze each track in a way as unconventional as Mac DeMarco’s sound itself. Rather than relying on lyricism, the audience is forced to appreciate the nuanced sound and layered nature of each track. Surely, this album isn’t destined to become a fan-favorite any time soon, but it is respectively and undeniably Mac DeMarco–something that, in itself, is worth taking the time to appreciate.