What’s better than four easy hot dogs? Five Easy Hot Dogs by Mac DeMarco

There are no words, literally none.

From an artist who has reached millions with his distinct voice and style, whose fan base surrounds teenagers who’ve fallen in love with what he’s released, he will let them continue on without any final words besides four: Five Easy Hot Dogs.

Now, whatever in the world that might mean isn’t entirely a mystery or convoluted either, but this wasn’t what I would have expected whatsoever. On Jan. 20, 2023, DeMarco released his fifth studio album, the last of his discography, titled Five Easy Hot Dogs: an entirely instrumental album that is such a moment. However, upon listening to it once over, I was initially confused why it sounded vaguely familiar and different.

The album was announced two weeks prior to its release with very little context, so having a DeMarco song without any iconic vocals or clever lyrics was new and odd and came with a slight surprise. This other side of him reflects in the album well, as it is left up to his creativity to let you think about the purpose of the album, which seemingly sounds the same for multiple songs.

From time to time, I fall into a phase where I listen strictly to instrumental music—classical, hip-hop, electronic—to almost cleanse myself of the repetition of my favorite melodic wonders; I can only be entertained by the same phrases for so long. DeMarco, I feel, has a similar situation to me because, after a show one year ago, he fled Los Angeles to escape and embark on a cross-continental car ride in his late 1990s Toyota Highlander, spanning both the US and Canada.

His project was for himself—the best quality an album can have—that gave an album a voice without having to say anything.

DeMarco wouldn’t return home until what would later become Five Easy Hot Dogs, was finished. With no words but memories instead, the songs are titled after the city where he created them, with some places having multiple pieces or “journal entries.” In chronological order, too, this is a wonderful documentary of his time exploring and living what he wants, without having to deal with the studio process he’s all too familiar with. As I listen to the album, the different cities flow together and meet in the middle: I recognize it’s DeMarco, but it’s more of the guitar speaking for him and for the place he’s visiting.

It’s not the same without his voice, however.

Truthfully, I wouldn’t have wanted anything over the luscious tones and musical persona.

His fifth and final album coincides with the album title. Five Easy Hot Dogs is such a funny name for this album, and when I first saw that this was the title of his final album, I wasn’t expecting an all-instrumental travelogue that is meant to break the continuity of creating music and the inevitable, unoriginal cycle artists lives have become.

“Victoria” is my favorite, as it best includes his distinguished sense of style the best, as well as delivering the feeling of inescapable tiredness. It reminds me of For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver: in a cabin buried in the Wisconsin woods, killing and cooking his own meat, making music in the middle of the winter, this album resonates with me more than any other. Five Easy Hot Dogs is close in nature to my favorite album, and I can’t help but appreciate the silence and difference so wonderfully expressed.

Even though I long for a good old DeMarco song that is much like his classics, his approach to breaking the mold mainstream artists, like him, are held to, was the perfect wrap-up to his influential oeuvre. This project was for himself—the best quality an album can have—that gave an album a voice without having to say anything.