Mac DeMarco, a 22-year-old singer songwriter from Montreal, is one of the more intriguing and, indeed, gifted musicians to emerge form Canada’s lo-fi indie rock scene. Having released a number of scrappy low-key cassette releases last year under the moniker Makeout Videotape, DeMarco reverted to making music under his own name and signed with Brooklyn’s esteemed Captured Tracks label. Following the Rock N Roll Night Club EP, released earlier this year, comes DeMarco’s curiously titled debut, 2. It offers a beguiling introduction into the singular world that DeMarco inhabits.
DeMarco is a musician who sounds far older than his years. 2’s cover features a broadly grinning, incredibly youthful DeMarco guitar in hand offering a peace sign. The image is very cheesy but perfectly fits into his aesthetic. The album straddles a thin divide between melodically sweet, naïve pop and a darker kind of melancholy. There is a hidden depth to much of 2 which belies the outwardly bright nature of many of the songs and the cheesily trad imagery.
The comparison most used when discussing DeMarco is Jonathan Richman. There are undoubted similarities – both artists are adept at making stripped back, slightly naïve and brilliantly melodic guitar rock. Songs like the jazzy guitar swing of Cooking Up Something Good and the gilding Freaking Out The Neighbourhood are nigh on perfect pieces of old-time sun kissed guitar pop. There is a something a little bit weirder though with DeMarco, a slight sense of subversion that hangs in the background, making much of 2 reminiscent of Ariel Pink‘s work at its most accessible. Whereas Pink’s work can often feel like a joke played on the audience, DeMarco’s songs are more heartfelt and lyrically direct. My Kind Of Woman deals with an age old pop theme of unrequited love and it sees a lambent guitar figure accompanying DeMarco’s yearning pleading to the girl of his dream whom he wishes to “Show me your world”. His resigned and deflated voice suggests he believes it may never happen.
DeMarco shows himself throughout the album to be a songwriter of real potential. Each song tells a distinct story. Opening track Cooking Up Something Good tells an engaging tale of family dysfunction: “Daddy’s on the sofa, pride of the neighbourhood.” The song is actually a rather sad tale about the apparent futility of suburban life with daddy actually making drugs in his basement. There is an inescapable sense of sadness in DeMarco’s delivery of the key line: “When life moves this slowly, just try and let it go.”
A desire to escape appears again on The Stars Keep Calling My Name, a lightly shimmering piece of swaying guitar pop, which sees DeMarco proclaiming: ‘This town’s really taking its toll.” The downbeat lyrics are a real contrast to the joyous slide guitar lines. That contrast between melancholic lyrics and playful jauntiness is present throughout. A number of songs are embellished with mellifluous guitar lines and off kilter guitar inflections. The best of these is the outro of Ode To Viceroy, which sees DeMarco’s guitar spiralling off on a dizzying melodic tangent. For ostensibly lo-fi, cheaply recorded music DeMarco is a seriously impressive musician and guitarist. But for all his musical talent thought there is a slightness to the songs that leads to a few of them becoming a bit samey in terms of structure of form. This is a minor concern though; these are simply just great songs.
2 closes with an understated romantic ballad that underlines the heartfelt emotion at the centre of the album. DeMarco is painfully honest, what could come across as saccharine is instead quietly affecting. De Marco addresses a female companion and declares: “In time she’ll see that her and me are meant to be together.”
There is something unique about Mac DeMarco in 2012. His sound is very traditional in both form and style but there is a very refreshing quality at the heart of 2. That slight touch of intrigue and eccentricity makes this a gem of a debut.