When it comes to exploring the middle-ground between adolescence and adulthood — and the feeling that the carefree days of your youth are slowly being consumed by a bleak future — Mac DeMarco is surely a veteran navigator on the subject.
His latest album, “Five Easy Hot Dogs,” is a musical voyage through this idea, and DeMarco takes us with him on the miles of useless time that comes from being on an exhausting road trip.
Unlike previous albums “This Old Dog” and “Salad Days,” the album is completely instrumental and DeMarco showcases his skills in composition and instrumentation in the 14-track LP. The lack of vocals on the album allows the instruments to take center stage and create a soundscape that invokes the atmosphere of road tripping through the country.
DeMarco recorded the album while on a 7,000-mile road trip across North America, using the back of his van as a makeshift recording studio. This unique approach to music-making resulted in a cohesive, effortless album where each track leads seamlessly into the next.
The stripped-back instrumentation, along with the occasional use of found sounds like the hum of a car engine, further enhance the experience of being on a long, tiring journey.
The album’s song titles, which are named after cities and towns (presumably those DeMarco visited on his trip), perfectly capture the feeling of being on a road trip. Simple, direct titles like “Portland,” “Vancouver” and “Edmonton” feel like mile markers for the record.
The lack of further description in the titles — and absence of lyrics — leaves the listener free to interpret and project their own experiences onto the music, further immersing them in the atmosphere of the album. Yet, the subsequent “Portland 2,” “Portland 3” and other similarly named sequels to tracks contribute to the album’s repetitive feeling.
In fact, the lack of vocals and variety in the instrumentation may make the album seem dull to some listeners. While effective in capturing the atmosphere of a long adventure, this bare approach may also leave some feeling underwhelmed. “Five Easy Hot Dogs” is a good album for a long car ride, but it might be an even better napping lullaby to some listeners.
Nevertheless, the mellower and peaceful sound of the album complements the introspective nature of travel, with the gentle ebb and flow of the instrumentals making it the perfect soundtrack for a long, lonesome drive. The album is not polished or overproduced, but instead feels raw and intimate, drawing the listener in as much as it can with its stripped-down tracks.
Overall, “Five Easy Hot Dogs” is a wild card album from DeMarco that takes listeners on a musical, and somewhat literal, journey. It perfectly captures the feeling of being on a long expedition and provides a balm for the soul in the form of its mellower and peaceful sound.
This album is perfect for those looking for an instrumental album that will transport them to another state of mind and provide an escape from the stresses of everyday life.
“Five Easy Hot Dogs” is now available on all major streaming platforms.