Headphones: Artists Who Know Where Their Strengths Lie

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It is yet another great week in music, as artists continue to release albums, music videos and singles. Mac DeMarco released his most sophisticated piece of work yet with the new release of This Old Dog; Niall Horan prepared us for his unresolved style of the future with the release of his new catchy single, 'Slow Hands;' and Director Colin Tilley is working with future to create a futuristic, incredible music video for 'Mask Off.' 

Album of the Week: This Old Dog – Mac DeMarco: This Old Dog, Mac DeMarco just released a beautiful third album, returning to the stratosphere after his long tour of the 2012 album, 2. The Canadian artist’s simplistic style and remarkable song-writing skills are just two selling points for what he and this album have to offer. This Old Dog manifests an undisguised, indie/folk-rock acoustic approach. The production done on these 13 tracks is understated and cut clean to perfection. The music in the record follows a slower, relaxed syncopation.

The 27 year old is known for his wacky humor and personality, but with This Old Dog, DeMarco masters a more mature and serious side. With every track, we are exposed to Mac’s reflections on the subjects of family, friends, love and living life without the reservations of the past.

The first track titled ‘My Old Man,’ is a touching song about Mac’s recognition of his father’s traits within himself. “Oh no looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me.” This melody is light-hearted, while the song itself is heavy and significant. The acoustic guitar is a huge proponent in the album, and the guiding element in ‘My Old Man.’ Taking on a similar perspective, ‘Still Beating,’ is sonically beautiful and similar to ‘My Old Man,’ in not being able to discern if the melody is one of hope or melancholy. Demarco again delivers lovely and engaging lyrics, making his tone sound as simple as having a conversation.

Most tracks in the album sing on the topic of love and moving forward when the love runs out, or the timing is off. DeMarco’s insight and words are poetic and authentic. ‘This Old Dog,’ is a sad tune about moving on while not forgetting about the person who once affected you so greatly. The song that follows it named ‘Baby You’re Out,’ embodies the same idea of breaking up and moving forward, but with an upbeat melody and encouraging lyrics, “Don’t dream of all the ways things could have been/Remember all the faces you let in/Remember all the faces still unseen/And soon enough you’ll see just what I mean.”

DeMarco created a cohesive record, but made sure to keep each track distinct from one another. The artist borrows features from all different genres whether that be characteristic EDM synths or playing a guitar tune over an old school R&B beat. ‘For the First Time,’ is an incredibly romantic song integrating modern production techniques with the base guitar to create a very dynamic sound. ‘On The Level’ follows the same creative nature, having a strong techno-electronic presence that lays over a slowed R&B beat. This track will probably bore you as compared to the other 12 tracks; Mac recites, “On the level,” repeatedly in the exact same tone, providing little variance lyrically throughout the song.

One song in particular was a surprise. ‘A Wolf Who Wears Sheep’s Clothes,’ sounds like a melody the Grateful Dead would use. DeMarco incorporates instrumental sound in this tune. The genuine, T-shirt and ripped jeans-wearing artist really mastered a classic old-school rock song song with this song. The artist used the pleasant features of a harmonica, combined with a leading drum beat and the electric guitar.

The longest track is seven-minute ‘Moonlight on the River.’ This song will have you thinking about the one that got away as DeMarco gracefully sings, “Moonlight on the river/Saying my goodbyes.” With two minutes left in the song, DeMarco surprises us with a gradual transition from the heavy-hearted guitar tune, to an ominous and sinister mixture of disorienting sounds. 

Single of the Week: Slow Hands – Niall Horan: Horan's second released single certainly does not disappoint. The artist did not waste any time in showcasing his charming, playful personality and vocals in this upbeat pop-rock tune. In an interview with Sirius XM Hits 1, Horan revealed some of his influences for this track. He told Sirius he had been listening to Don Henley and other famous artists from the late 1970s and early 80s while making this single. "When he went solo in the early 80s, he just kinda had this funky kind of feel to it – heavy bass, heavy guitar – so I just thought, 'Let's give this a crack,'" Niall said of creating ‘Slow Hands.’ Well done Horan, you’ve successfully separated yourself from the once insanely popular boy band: One Direction. Niall Horan might just become the next John Mayer, as he continues to experiment and establish his own sound.

 Music Videos

Hip-Hop: Mask Off – Future: Future’s single ‘Mask off,’ has proved to be his most successful, achieving his highest single ranking in his expanding career. Obviously, the music video had to match the quality of the track. Director Colin Tilley did a phenomenal job in producing a visual storyline for the song. The video begins with the chorus, “Mask off/Fuck it Mask off,” while Future physically removes a mask. The video then introduces us to the beginning of the song while Future is accompanied by Amber Rose in a luxurious Bentley, followed by an armed robbery and further havoc caused throughout the city.

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