Still DeMarco: 'Another One', Reviewed

Mac is back with a phenomenal "mini-LP"
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Mac is back with a phenomenal "mini-LP"

Very few things confuse me as sincerely as Mac DeMarco’s work/life balance. It just doesn’t equate. Musically, the dude’s on an unimpeded fast track. His evolution as an artist is outrageous, which is impressive given how swollen the vintage-indie-folk-songwriter scene has become over the past decade. But for reasons inexplicable, IRL DeMarco remains committed to this awkward, obstinate goofball persona that almost feels meant to besmirch the very same maturity that makes his music so great. Whether by accident or for deliberate reasons unknown, Mac DeMarco has become Mac DeMarco’s most belligerent fan.

As time goes by, I grow more and more incensed by the disparity. It’s not a question of why anymore; it’s a question of how. How is it possible that the guy responsible for “Chamber of Reflection” and “Let Her Go” is the same guy with a penchant for on-stage nudity and mid-performance drumstick sodomy? How can he think this is better than literally any other approach? And how are we to take any of this seriously?

That last one is the crux upon which this entire juxtaposition teeter-totters. Does Mac DeMarco actually expect what he ultimately receives? The answer wouldn’t be nearly as crucial if languid neo-folk wasn’t his de facto medium. But since it is, we involuntarily need to believe that DeMarco believes himself.

And honestly, he does. We know he does. These tracks are too great to be written by a sociopath. And truthfully, it wouldn’t really matter that much if he didn’t, because for certain people, the thought process never even gets that far. Mac DeMarco’s music is powered by a childlike dismissal of consequence that critically affects his progress as an artist every day. In a way, he maintains this strange Jekyll/Hyde thing because it’s at the heart of, well, everything.

Admittedly, it’s a volatile cocktail. But here’s the rub: It works for him. It worked for him on 2, and it worked for him again on Salad Days. It should come as no surprise, then, that it works on Another One, maybe better than it’s ever worked before.

On Another One, we learn stuff. The first thing we learn is how beneficial an eight-track record can be for a singer songwriter. When it comes to conviction, album length matters. Burying the lead is a very real threat in any genre, but artists of this one specifically are much more susceptible. At eight tracks long, however, Another One feels totally deliberate in its abbreviation, and it positions DeMarco as a guy who understands his audience’s attention span.

To criticize Another One solely on the musicianship first requires the admission that all Mac DeMarco songs sort of sound the same. His guitar is constantly shitfaced, and production always sounds like it took place in a sock. But mine a little deeper, and all of a sudden, Another One is the most technically refined album DeMarco has produced. Title track is downright pretty. “A Heart Like Hers”, on the other hand, is a haunting minor-key slow build with a chorus made of silk. “I’ve Been Waiting For Her”, meanwhile, is a sedated companion to 2’s spectacular “Freaking Out The Neighborhood”, making it the only jam-worthy track on the album.

That’s perfectly okay, because the more you immerse yourself in Another One, the more in-focus DeMarco’s target becomes. It’s an observation made possible by the dramatic improvement his writing has undergone. “Closer to the ending / She’s still out pretending / Prying eyes won’t recognize / The way she feels about him,” DeMarco cautions on “The Way You’d Love Her”. Lyrically, this is matriculation of the highest caliber, which makes the fact that it’s the first song on the album all the more impressive. From here, things only get better. “No Other Heart” is a strange dialogue that pits DeMarco’s starry-eyed ambition against his more staid reality. It’s a fascinating track made even more fascinating by how swingy it is. And “Just To Put Me Down” picks up right where, “No Other Heart” left off, dropping catchy hooks against a much heavier message. DeMarco’s decision to play between the bars and use his lyrics as a bridge pays off in spades, here. “I never want another one / Like her coming around / Picking me up just to put me down,” he relents as though this is a mistake he’d rather never make again.

I’m not going to talk about “My House By The Water” because ever since Another One leaked, it’s been like the only thing anyone wants to discuss. Mac DeMarco invites listeners to his house for a cup of coffee. He gives his address, and he includes specifics. Why, then, are critics so mesmerized by the fact that people actually made good on the offer? We aren’t talking about the guy from Makeout Videotape, and we’re barely talking about the guy who recorded Rock and Roll Night Club. This version of DeMarco is a known entity—an indie rock A-lister who’s slowly but constantly learning more and more things about his craft, his fanbase and himself. Having both the desire and the ability to learn on the job can’t be taught, but on Another One, DeMarco unintentionally demonstrates just exactly how loved he really is. And that love is growing. 

B+

Another One is out now. Order it here.