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Review: Mac DeMarco Cleans Up His Act on ‘Another One’

7
SPIN Rating: 7 of 10
Release Date: July 31, 2015
Label: Captured Tracks

Indie rock’s favorite merry prankster — the Bizkit-covering, self-violating, gap-toothed, boy-king Mac DeMarco — has another collection of chewy guitar-pop treats to share. And for his next trick: normalcy. The Canadian-born and New York-based songwriter has always played harder with sincerity on record than his public persona would suggest; he’s growing up, getting older, slowing down. He’s moved out to one of Queen’s sleepiest corridors, Far Rockaway, a onetime retreat of the rich and famous back in an era when DeMarco’s penchant for cigs might have been seen as an asset rather than a health risk. It’s nothing like that now; today you’ll mostly find tourists making their way out to New York’s most accessible beach, but even that’s slowed down in the wake of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which did its share of damage to anything within sight of the coastline.

So he’s hanging out in a big house, occasionally heading out on the water in his boat, and Another One, an eight-track mini-L,P is the wonderfully humdrum soundtrack — a beachy and heavy-lidded respite from the anxious and comparatively busy production on his 2014 breakthrough, Salad Days. It’s more of his seemingly tossed-off guitar balladry, stretched-out and warbled like he recorded direct-to-rubber band instead of direct-to-tape, but this time there are fewer winks and stunts, just more of the DeMarco who wants to love you tender.

To that end, the title track is pretty much the platonic ideal of Mac’s current era, an exploration of self-defeating jealousy and distrust laid out on top of a slowly unspooling guitar line. The lyrics are poignant and simple (the most basic way you could address the “so confused” sentiments), but that’s DeMarco these days — no longer content to hide behind pitch-warped vocals and goofy radio interludes, he’s offering bald declarations of common insecurities.

The instrumentation throughout works in favor of DeMarco’s newly staid demeanor. Guitar solos still dribble like spilt cream, unpredictably streaking out onto the songs, but for the most part this is a clean and clear DeMarco affair, one that mostly strips away the flourishes he introduced on Salad Days for a slightly more muscular version of what came before it. The casual drift of his songcraft feels like his 2012 debut 2 again, he’s just had a little more time, a little more gear, and (definitely) a little more money to bang this one out. But it’s still a collection of songs recorded by DeMarco, at his house — it’s just that this version of his everyman production is his most studio-like to date.

The record does occasionally suffer from having less of a unified aesthetic than you might hope for (“Just to Put You Down” in particular centers itself on a guitar figure that feels wispy enough to get tossed away by a light breeze). The record might have been better titled Some Other Ones, had he not just issued a demo collection with that name. But either way, Another One is a collection of a few of DeMarco’s best songs to date, all in a day’s work for this normal guy who just so happens to get a little wild on stage. It’s DeMarco’s plea for mundanity, but the occasionally brilliant results — both in the crisp production and brave sincerity — counteract the point. There are a lot of dudes in the world, and he’s not just another one.