Album Review: Mac DeMarco - Another One

Album Reviews
Gerrit Feenstra

Though he performs ceaselessly with superhuman energy, though he's already dropped two records this year (Demos Vol. 1 and last week's Some Other Ones) and this will be his third for 2015, and though his character and charisma both shine like a demigod of whimsy, Mac DeMarco is more human than all of us. Last year's Salad Days saw Mac at his best yet, taking on twenty-something growing pains with comparative ease, giving the most relatable thirty minute barbecue soundtrack in a decade, and cracking a joke or twelve along the way. After that, he embarked on a near-endless tour that included three separate Seattle dates (two full length sets on the same night) and a follow up tour earlier this year with a date at the Neptune that blew all others out of the water. But life on the road isn't the easiest life, and nothing makes that fact clearer than Mac's new mini-album Another One. Herein, Mac discusses the pains of love and loss apart. It's the closest thing he's given us to a breakup album, but in typical Mac style, he puts a spin on the trope that makes it a wonderful and lovable experience. It may not be long, but it's nice ride while it lasts - Another One is another great addition to Mac's ever-impressive library of gold.

There's a perfectly good reason for why Mac has gone through the trouble to call Another One a mini-album as opposed to an EP. This record is no extension of an idea we saw on Salad Days - rather, it's quite a far removed riff. On Salad Days, Mac told us to "Let Her Go" when it's time to. Here on Another One, he's mourning her absence and he's not apologizing. Where Salad Days bounced between different emotional highs and lows, Another One cruises along at about the same pace for its duration, bumbling along, kicking up dirt, and looking out for a new silver lining. It's as heart-broken as Mac will show himself to us - never as introverted and long-faced as "Chamber of Reflection", but also never as chummy as "Blue Boy". It's a place none of us want to see Mac for very long. These are all great reasons why Another One doesn't crack the twenty-five minute mark. It's a full chapter - and a somber one at that - but it's done when it's done, then it's time to move on. In this, Mac does a good job pacing himself towards the album's end and gives us a full picture of what true heartbreak looks like in DeMarco's groovy world.

The album's first two songs give us the emotional dynamics of the record. Where the opener is a cheer-up tune whose overall message is "too bad, she totally missed out", the title track is a Charlie Brown navel gazer for long walks along the waterfront picturing her alongside new loves. Another One bounces between these poles much like the rest of DeMarco's music does - sometimes, he's a bundle of joy just ready to help a brother out, and sometimes he's trapped in his head, spiraling out of control into self-induced misery. But in all of this, Mac tries to make sense of the whole thing, all over top his usual soundtrack of feel-good walking pace rock and roll. It's nothing we haven't heard before, sonically, but more of a good thing never hurt anyone. There's something eternally endearing about Mac's cool, chorus-heavy lead guitars, always a quarter-tone off of perfect intonation, always a wry smile a single glance away. This charm guides "No Other Heart" beginning to end, with a lovely harmony between the organ, guitar, and voices throughout. Mac turns the charm off on the chiding "Just To Put Me Down", but he does thrown in a killer guitar solo, so hey, no qualms here.

Side B gets darker, with the bitterness of "Just To Put Me Down" fading, and an honest yearning for the familiar filling an empty void. "A Heart Like Hers" is a synth-heavy jam in the vein of "Chamber", putting Mac in his higher register for a real heartbreaker. "All that I could give, all I had to offer her is gone, simply locked away, no longer there to bother her", Mac mourns, wishing just to know someone with the same depth that he did. When the sadness becomes just a bit too much to bear, the song breaks into "I've Been Waiting For Her", the only track of the bunch to break the sonic formula for something a bit different. A driving four tempo makes Mac sound much more confident and defiant in the face of sadness than the rest of the record. This is the "starting over" track - not the kind where you are bummed to be starting over, but the kind where you realize how much you've learned and what you'll get to do right this time around. The chorus is a great riff, there's a solid guitar solo, and the bass line is second to none in Mac's book. It's bound to become a live staple.

But all of this comes to a crown on "Without Me", the slow-burning ballad that takes the usual called-for amount of DeMarco melancholy and quadruples the recipe. God almighty, this song hurts like hell, but it is glorious. In the same way that 2 closer "Still Together" makes the ups and downs of relationship and expectation look like a roller coaster ride that all comes together in full, "Without Me" is a "settle for less" type song that reduces expectation to only self-reliant levels. It hurts to here happy-go-lucky Mac DeMarco at this spot - really it does. We'd rather call him a one-dimensional character with zero pain, laugh at the dick jokes all over his Instagram, and call it another wonderfully lazy day. But "Without Me" is a song where Mac can see the world without himself in frame, and in that, he's bested all expectations that come along with his unprecedented rise to fame. It's a tough song, but a necessary one on all levels.

"My House By The Water" rounds the record out with a moment of silence to regain composure after the merciless heartbreak of "Without Me". The sounds of the ocean fade in and out quietly over an organ for two minutes before Mac's usual bouncy tone comes in, reciting an address and offering a cup of coffee to anyone who stops by. It's presumed that this is Mac's home address in New York. If you look it up, sure enough, there's a little house by the water, on one of the coldest points directly south of Brooklyn, where you can picture Mac as shown on the front cover, standing on the water looking out at the sunset and wondering what's left for him out there. Yes, Another One paints Mac as the most tragic character we've seen yet, but this whimsical ending shows his character in droves. You can't stay down forever, and there will always be another one - another love, another try, another way to get through the day - just over the horizon. Mac has taken a painful chapter and given us a beautiful little gift. As the end of summer bleeds into fall, it will no doubt soundtrack the shedding of summer skin with the usual amount of DeMarco style and grace.

Another One is out this week on Captured Tracks. Make sure to pick it up at your local record store on CD or vinyl. Also, definitely check out Mac's free instrumental album Some Other Ones, which he recorded alongside Another One for laughs. Mac will return to Seattle on October 29! Last time he stopped by, he jumped off the Neptune balcony. You'll definitely want to be there. Grab tickets here.

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