Mac DeMarco should be embarrassed and Ariel Pink should be proud. Mac embarrassed because people keep comparing him to the drugged up, dragged out spectacle of fodder that the Pitchfork scene just loves to eat up. Ariel proud because they keep comparing this up and coming youngster to the indie patriarch that frankly, he is not. Mac DeMarco is the latest in a burgeoning group of artists coming from the Great White North; to this writer he is the greatest Canadian export since Kids In The Hall, Broken Social Scene, or Japandroids. He adopted the genre of jizz jazz: he has an affinity for jazz guitar, and as for the jizz part, he’s just a 22-year-old looking to make the people laugh. Where Ariel failed with another so-so notch in his bedpost with Mature Themes, Mac succeeds with his debut LP, the coyly yet accurately titled 2.
Mac is like many of his contemporaries in that 2 is chock full of future hits wrapped in the past. Each of its 11 songs could easily find their home on a Nuggets comp of the 1960s just as much as they could be on Time Life’s AM Gold in the 1970s. On this year’s Rock & Roll Night Club EP, he indulged himself in the things Mr. Pink might do and what Mac once did in his old band Makeout Videotape. The Betamax hiss gave way to a VHS-like upgrade in quality, while the pitch of his voice was deliberately tampered with, and the tape speed of songs were manipulated to go faster or slower than they were originally. Mac trades all of those facets in for simplicity this time around. Still recorded by himself at his Montreal home, he achieves so much with so little, creating some of the most memorable melodies of the year, ones that will be trapped in your head at all hours that you’ll only be able to get out by miming along on your air guitar. The production is so organic, so clear, the listener will think that tambourine they hear is being played by their own hand because they might as well be in the room with him. Hell, his girlfriend Kiera really is being awakened by Mac when the album ends a brisk 31 minutes after it starts.
The A-Side opens with “Cooking Up Something Good”, a song DeMarco claims is about his dad smoking meth. It’s probably just his tongue planted firmly in cheek, him being funny again. What isn’t funny is how this number is downright fetching. A simple carefree melody follows through with a boogie of a beat, one that will give a spring to each step you take walking down the street listening to this song. Overall, the album gives off a hazy stoner vibe, pulling double duty as the perfect soundtrack for a mid afternoon barbeque, the sun shredding the clouds like the dueling solos at the end of the rave up “Freaking Out The Neighborhood”, and as the end of a late night party, people drunkenly stammering or simply passing out on the floor to the woozy instrumental “Boe Zaah”. And though most songs slink along at roughly the same pace, that of a pimp-like strut down to the block he claims ownership of, there are a few moments where the pace picks up now and again. Like “Neighborhood” before it, “The Stars Keep On Calling My Name” find the young Canuck reaching for the clouds of celebrity, daydreaming of the moments of escapism he desperately desires. “I just wanna go” Mac says, for he’s reached his limit in Montreal, but that’s not because of the lucky lady by his side he wants to take the journey with him. He’s just a young guy in love who wants to follow his dreams, and cannot imagine doing it all alone.
In keeping with the simplicity of his sound, Demarco’s lyrics tend to be equally relatable and to the point. Rather than just spout off a bunch of lines that are shrouded in metaphors, he’s honest, humorous and direct in his use of his songs to tell stories or offer apologies to his silly behavior now and again. He’s a junior high schooler in love (or is it lust) in the epic “My Kind Of Woman,” and a senior high schooler falling in love with his preferred brand of cigarette in “Ode To Viceroy”. He eventually matures into the older, more confident man who has settled in with the acoustic ballad “Still Together,” an update on an old Makeout Videotape track.
By the time you get to the end, and you hear him pack up his gear and go to bed, you wonder what he might do next. If Rock & Roll Night Club was an exercise in creating velvety Elvis-like croons amidst a dumping ground of songs, and this is a clean, cohesive, rather sustainable LP proper, what’s up his sleeve for an inevitable Mac DeMarco 3? I posed this question directly to Demarco when he made a stop in DC a few weeks ago, and he indicated that he has songs leftover but he always just tosses them aside and starts fresh. So with two distinct sounds created on his two 2012 releases, and a fuzzed out Videotape past, there’s really no telling which direction he’ll head in.
In the meantime, best anyone can do is just keep 2 on repeat for days while we wait and see what a kid sitting at home in his underwear, shredding to the tune of his own genre is going to do next.