The Mactrospect: A Lookback at the Albums of Mac DeMarco
In less than a decade Mac DeMarco has went from the underground to headlining indie music festivals all over the world. And its easy to see why; his brand of off-kilter indie inspired by 70s soft rock, psychedelia and RnB is both very accessible, but is also a breath of fresh air in the often stale world of indie pop. Another key to success is his high energy and often weird (hyperlink: https://youtu.be/RsOcq3IpWD8?t=1950) concerts, leading many to call him one of the only real modern “rockstars” in indie.
Mac has a new album coming out on May 5th, so I, as a fan of his music, have decided to do a look back on his main discography, and dissect why I think his music is so amazing.
Rock and Roll Nightclub
Macs first EP, released after the breakup of his band Makeout Videotape (and actually featuring two tracks recorded by them!) Rock and Roll Nightclub is an outlier in Mac’s discography because it features heavy manipulation on Macs vocals. On the majority of tracks, Mac puts on a smokey, Elvis-like croon that has been pitched down extremely low. Combined with the sleazy lyrics and chopped-and-skewed psychedelic guitars I can only describe this album as the auditory equivalent of a creepy middle aged man with a dirtstache trying to buy you a drink at the bar.
This sleazy aesthetic shows up particularly strong in the track “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans” which is about a dude with a fetish for 80s jeans, and “I’m A Man”, a track which swaggers with the confidence of proud weirdo. Other standout tracks on this album include the funky “Movin’ Like Mike” and “She’s Really All I Need”, which is one of the few tracks without the vocal manipulation.
Also, Rock and Roll Night Club is the only Mac DeMarco album which showcases his bizarro sense of humour. The two radio-style interludes, “96.7 the Pipe” and “106.2 Breeze FM” have Mac dawning the persona of sleazy, late night radio hosts. I’m more partial to “The Pipe” because the line “We got a triple shot of Mac DeMarco, coming at ya, stuffing it down the chute” is both hilarious and disgusting to me.
Final Verdict: Rock and Roll Night Club is a very unique musical experience. I use the word “sleazy” a lot in this review because that’s really the only word that can do the album justice. It’s weird, sleazy indie rock record that I love. Despite the underground attention it got this wasn’t Mac’s breakout release, for obvious reasons. It wouldn’t be until future releases where Mac finds the audience he has today.
2 is Mac’s first full length album, and what an album it is. Mac abandons the weirdness on Rock and Roll Nightclub in favour of a more accessible, straightforward sound and he pulls off the transition flawlessly.
If the standout on his previous effort was the weird vocals, then 2‘s standout feature are the riffs. The guitar riffs on this album are jazzy, funky, and catchy as all hell. For me the best riffs on 2 can be found in the tracks “Cooking Up Something Good”, “Annie”, “Freaking Out The Neighbourhood” and “Sherrill”.
It should also be noted that 2 was Mac’s breakout record. For many people their first taste of Mac was probably through Mac’s tribute to his favourite brand of cheap cigarettes, “Ode to Viceroy” or the ballad “Still Together” which has since become the song Mac traditionally ends his concerts with.
Final Verdict: Definitely my favourite Mac DeMarco album and probably remains the favourite of many of his fans. Those sweet, sweet riffs have permanently penetrated my ears permanently, and when I’ve seen Mac live I feel the best moments are when he performs those anthems from 2.
Macs third album and probably his most diverse. Mac brings in a country rock vibe reminiscent of early 70s Grateful Dead on the tracks “Salad Days”, “Let Her Go” and “Treat Her Better”. On other tracks he doubles down on the psychedelic rock influences, like on “Brother”.
Of course, one of the biggest changes to his music on this album is the introduction of synths on the tracks “Passing Out Pieces” and “Chamber of Reflection”. “Passing Out Pieces” was probably my first introduction to Macs music, and while it isn’t one of his more popular tracks with its catchy as hell synth riff. “Chamber of Reflection” on the other hand is arguably one of his best known songs, having been sampled by Wiz Khalifa. Its ethereal synth plus introspective lyrics and allusions to Freemasonry make it one of Macs most unique songs.
Final Verdict: I don’t like Salad Days as much as 2 but it’s still a really good album, and a welcomed addition to the Mac catalog (Macatalog?)
Mac’s most recent effort is this EP, and sadly to say it’s his first underwhelming release. It isn’t horrible by any means, but it’s definitely lacking a lot of the essence his previous albums had. The opener, “The Way You’d Love Her” starts strong with its energetic, Bikini Bottom-esque riffs, and the title track “Another One” is an amazing synth ballad about fear of your partner being disloyal. After that, its all really weak material. The only other standout track for me is “I’ve Been Waiting for Her”, which brings back that Spongebob Squarepants tropical guitar from earlier. Another moment worth mentioning is the end of the ambient ballad “My House By The Water”, where Mac reveals his home address and invites all his fans to come by and get a cup of coffee. (Sadly he doesn’t live at that address anymore.)
Final Verdict: Not bad by any measure, but not really interesting compared to his other work. However, given that it is an EP I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was probably just experimenting with new sounds, which is respectable.
THE FUTURE OF MAC
Mac’s released two songs off his upcoming album, “This Old Dog” and “My Old Man”, and from these samples it sounds like Mac is making a radical departure from his established sound. Abandoning electric guitar for acoustic ballads that remind me of the works of folk rock Paul Simon, James Taylor and Nick Drake. Will this album be good? Well we’ll just have to wait a see, but I’ve got faith that the self-styled “Pepperoni Playboy” will deliver the goods.