Recording information: Jizz Jazz Studios (06/2012).
Photographer: Joe McMurray.
Vancouver, British Columbia weirdo Mac DeMarco appeared under his own name in the spring of 2012 with Rock and Roll Night Club, a grab-bag album's worth of songs marketed as an EP. The atmosphere on R&RNC was jagged, with tracks either sounding identical or taking sharp stylistic left turns, with results ranging from warm bedroom pop to Ween-esque demented goofery. Just months after the release of that confusing collection comes 2, DeMarco's proper full-length debut. Though his off-kilter pop sounds got rolling in the late 2000s with his Makeout Videotape project, the development he's been working on since his early cassette-only albums comes into full focus here, with his songs sounding as serious and straightforward as DeMarco's trickster-like persona will allow. Part of this is the sense of cohesion that runs through the album. The sincerity of even the most delicate songs on R&RNC was called into question when they were placed side by side with stoned, sophomoric ones. While 2 maintains a damaged sense of humor, there's less absurdity afoot. Instead, DeMarco puts his energy toward cultivating a strange late-night loner atmosphere, which touches even the yacht-rock partying apology song "Freaking Out the Neighborhood" and the wiggly jam band guitar noodling of "Annie." Heavy repetition factors into the cohesiveness of the album as well. Without completely recycling melodies or lyrics, "Ode to Viceroy" sounds pretty directly similar to "My Kind of Woman" in tonality, pacing, and general feel. The nocturnal shut-in undertones permeate most of DeMarco's tunes, sounding like he's singing from deep within some private world in his mind similar to his contemporaries like Ariel Pink, John Maus, and Willis Earl Beal. Even the wobbly instrumental "Boe Zaah" blends into the bigger framework of 2, winding the record down into its final songs without feeling either jarringly different or tacked on. If anything, 2 borders on sounding so cohesive the songs become indistinguishable from one another. The album's gentle acoustic closer, "Still Together," does much to even out the rest of the album, wrapping up the eccentric smoky guitar jams and tongue-in-cheek moments of 2 with an unexpectedly sweet slice of spare, devotional balladry. DeMarco is still a befuddling character, but the compressed landscape of 2 takes steps away from his cartoonish beginnings toward something equally strange, but possibly more grown up. ~ Fred Thomas