Mac D. tosses out yet another one
by Jericho Cerrona
Hopeless romantic, spurner lover, gap-toothed jackass; who exactly is Canadian musician Mac DeMarco? Like all slacker icons, there's a discernible lack of concern over public image, even as the very idea of this persona has been cultivated for maximum slacker impact. Even the title for his latest is something of a playful in-joke; inferring perhaps a series of B-sides from last year's woozy LP Salad Days.
However, despite the lackadaisical delivery and hokey tenor of the tunes, the truth of the matter is that this guy has genuine songwriting chops, with an ability to channel both melancholy and winking self-deprecation without coming off twee.
In a way, DeMarco is constantly shape-shifting his internal monologue while crafting carefree guitar pop in a way that feels organic, even as it may in fact be more contrived. This isn't to say that there's something disingenuous about DeMarco's music. To the contrary; his songs showcase a rare sensitivity to the finer points of heartbreak that would have been unbelievably saccharine in the hands of most earnest indie singer-songwriters. The difference here is that there's an awareness of slagging off the audience; almost as if hiding loneliness behind juvenile quirks allows for a way to ward off misery or conversely embrace it. In that sense, there's something reassuring about Another One for those who've been following the musician better known for his bizarre onstage antics than songwriting prowess; with an infamous drum stick rectum incident being probably the most representative of this fuck-off attitude. The reassurance comes in the forms of what's now become DeMarco staples; vintage lo-fi production, jangly guitar playing, hushed baritone vocals, and semi-stoned lyrical ruminations about love and relationships.
While many will see DeMarco's jokey shtick and onstage hijinks as somehow disproportionate to the childlike fluidity of his music, that's ultimately a reductive viewpoint. Honestly, how much of DeMarco's vaguely sociopathic behavior is innate or some kind of Ariel Pink-esque bit of performance art is debatable, but what's important here is the genuine longing beneath that wisecracking veneer. Even more so than on Salad Days and his previous record 2, DeMarco digs into the painful failures of a botched relationship and comes up with something approaching a gut-punch. Seen from this perspective, breezy tracks like "The Way You'd Love Her", which imagines his ex with someone new, and "I've Been Waiting For Her", an impossibly idyllic trifle about pining for a soul mate, feel more like sad resignations than eccentric throwaway jams. It's almost as if the chill "zen-ness" of DeMarco's outward demeanor has less to do with stoner hippy mantras and more with misdirection. For every upbeat declaration of self-confidence, like "No Other Heart", where he pines Come on and give this lover boy a try/ I'll put a sparkle right back in your eyes/ What could you lose; there's a sense he's just barely holding onto his winking goofball act, especially on the repetitively somber "Just To Put Me Down." Meanwhile, the very fact that he gives out his actual address on closer "My House by the Water", inviting listeners to stop by and have a cup of coffee, infers both anti-comedy as well as a desperate need to connect.
This blurring line between the artist and fan means that no matter how abrasive DeMarco's public persona can be at times, there seems to be a real desire to share his neurotic foibles in order to be inclusive rather than exclusive. It doesn't hurt, too, that Another One is overflowing with lovely lo-fi pop that never strays from the formula, but nonetheless cements the idea that malaise, heartbreak, and drum stick buttholes are all part of the same continuum.