This is my story.
When you are in your late #teens and early twenties, you often define yourself by what you listen to. For a lot of us, that means devoting your burgeoning personal brand and steadily increasing buying power to the power of “indie rock culture,” which means dressing like you roadie for Fleet Foxes, eating artisanal foods, being suddenly snobby about coffee and beer, and buying records by even the shittiest of Fleet Foxes side projects.
But then you get older. You get laid. You get a real job. You realize it’s OK to prefer music from your teen years over new stuff. You stop defining yourself by whether or not you think a Pitchfork review of your favorite band’s new album was off by 1.3 points. You start becoming a real, functioning person. And then you stop keeping up on indie rock, and in accepting your inevitable demise into being old and boring, you begin to let bands and their entire discographies pass by you without you even noticing.
However, because you set up your online social media circles when you debated the ratings of the new National album, you are constantly inundated with arguments, with discussions of new albums “not being as good as the last one,” and a million blogs tweeting their posts about the new single from bands you have never listened to. This creates a problem: You are no longer part of “the conversation” about indie rock bands, and you can no longer relate to people in the same way via your Twitter feed. We all know this is worse than death.
One indie band like that for me is Mac DeMarco, the Canadian dude who records for Captured Tracks. I have barely listened to any of his music, and now that the hype cycle is building behind his upcoming third album, Salad Days, I feel like certain branches of my Twitter timeline are speaking a language I don’t understand when he comes up. All I know is that the people that like him are super into him.
So instead of letting myself miss an entire artist’s catalog, I am going to take my indie rock medicine and listen to every Mac DeMarco song in order. (I didn’t include his material as Makeout Videotape because life is temporal.) Will I rekindle the flame of the 19-year-old me who would have been pissed to find out the 27-year-old me had never heard a guy who got multiple “best new” honors on Pitchfork? Or will my life continue exactly as it was?
Rock and Roll Night Club (2012)
“Rock and Roll Night Club”—When I say I’ve never listened to Mac DeMarco, that’s not entirely accurate; I listened to this song after downloading a torrent of this in 2012. I don’t remember my exact thoughts about it then, but it was enough to send this whole album to the 0s and 1s of my MacBook recycle bin.
“96.7 The Pipe”—Just had a mid-key panic attack worried that Mac was going to sing with the pitched-down voice here the whole time, and it would be like listening to a soft rock album with A$AP Rocky’s cough syrup delirium voice on it the whole time.
“Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans”—Of the three Demarco songs I have heard, this is the best one. The fluttering guitar riff is lifted off ‘70s-era AM and lyrically it’s the same. I don’t know why, but I sort of assumed he was one of those dudes who have a career off people’s hunger for a Jay Reatard-like prolific punk guy, but he’s pretty chill and not punk at all.
“One More Tear To Cry”—If it were possible for a pair of Wrangler cut-off jorts to be represented by a piece of music, this song would probably be it.
“European Vegas”—Is the ultimate point of DeMarco that he’s a soft rock indie guy who kinda sounds like a lazy Elvis impersonator? He’s Urban Outfitters Elvis.
“106.2 Breeze FM”—So apparently this is a concept album about how you are stuck in a universe run by a media conglomerate that exclusively programs radio stations that only play Mac DeMarco songs. Hell is exactly as you imagined it.
“She’s Really All I Need”—No.
“Moving Like Mike”—I wish I could write something trenchant about the merits of being “lo-fi” and how it’s a negation of modern technologies, and how it’s a throwback to the music Mac is clearly inspired by, but let’s cut the shit. Being lo-fi is as much of a calculated aesthetic choice as hiring Ariel Rechtshaidand shooting for that sweet Target ad money.
“Me And Jon Hanging On”—Wikipedia says Mac is often called “slacker rock.” But that doesn’t truly capture his sound. This should be called “trying-not-to-try-core.”
“I’m A Man”—I could see being 21, and programming this song on the playlist for a friend of a friend’s cookout where you are trying to impress that girl from your Politics of South America class who has a nose ring and literally no interest in you romantically or interpersonally. She’ll nod along to the song, and you’ll celebrate quietly in the corner, clutching a High Life and adjusting your plastic frame glasses for the song’s two minutes and 32 seconds. You will go home to your mom’s house alone.
“Only You”—I am beginning to think I might still be the target market for a song about being “done crying over her,” and I am becoming cautiously optimistic that maybe at some point I’ll actually really “like” a Mac DeMarco song. Not yet though.
“Me And Mine”—Time is a flat circle, so that means I’ve been listening to Mac DeMarco for 32 minutes and also 3,200,000,000 minutes. Both lengths seem possible. There comes a point where listening to glammy guitar lines, hardly sung lyrics and a trying hard not to try attitude can stretch on for infinity.
“Cooking Up Something Good”—This already feels like it will be better than the last album; the guitar lines are clean, and Mac isn’t as purposefully “I don’t care about this LOL” about everything. This move was apparently read as cynical (he apparently got accused of ripping off Cass McCombs on this album), but then again, life is cynical and terrible, so shouts to Mac Demarco.
“Dreaming”—This song is like listening to a co-worker you don’t like describe a dream in which they smoke weed and watch TV while they’re naked. Except worse than that.
“Freaking Out The Neighborhood”—My friend booked Mac for a show in Madison last year, and she said he had one of the filthiest tour vans she had ever seen (her exact words were “it reminded me to get a tetanus shot”). It seems like the only thing he really “tries” to do is to come off like a weirdo dirtball, which this song captures nicely. If you’re truly freaking out the neighborhood, you don’t write a song to your mom about it. You’re too busy shitting in your neighbors’ mailboxes to notice what your mom thinks about you.
“Annie”—I really feel bad for the 22-year-old women on college campuses named Annie who have gotten this sent to them via DMs. It gets better, Annies.
“Ode to Viceroy”—Hipster cigarette power rankings: E-cigs > Weed > Djarum Black > American Spirits > Viceroy > never inhaling a Camel you have lit > Kool > Virginia Slims
“Robson Girl”— I’m beginning to understand what people get out of this music; there aren’t that many loopy singer-songwriters with “cool” cred left in the game and liking Mac DeMarco is way cooler than liking the National in 2014. He’s not indie mainstream yet. He’s “cool” indie rock right now. Which is to say I don’t hate this song.
“The Stars Keep On Calling My Name”—I’m starting to like Mac the guitar player, I think. He comes at stuff at obtuse angles to his rhythm lines, on this track, playing like he’s working at a Tiki Shack.
“My Kind of Woman”—I was told pre-doing listening to DeMarco that this is his “best” song and I am inclined to agree with that assessment. This is a damaged, cracked love song delivered without irony. Best New Mac.
“Boe Zaah”—This is the best guitar riff so far; it sounds like an outro for a mid-period Doobie Brothers song (and I mean that as a compliment). It’s probably not a coincidence that I like this better than the songs where Mac sings.
“Still Together”—I think you’re supposed to read the fact that this sounds like it was recorded in an empty room adjacent to where Mac’s girlfriend was sleeping before he wakes her up as “authentic” and “heartfelt” and that is exactly how I am reading it, I am a sucker for stuff like this.
Salad Days (2014)
“Salad Days”—A guy I follow on Twitter told me that Mac DeMarco is the new Harry Nilsson, and I imagine this song plays heavily into that assertion. Mac’s voice is higher and clearer here than before, and he is as miserablist as Harry used to be lyrically (“actin like my life is already over”). However, I’m here at my desk yelling “Or Nah” right now.
“Blue Boy”—I’m starting to realize that there are only two DeMarco songs: The slow, strummy ones where he talk-sings, and the slow, strummy ones where he sings with a crumbling falsetto. This is the former, and I bet which song you prefer says a lot about where you went to college.
“Brother”—Man, how dope would it have been if Mac covered that Aviici song here? That would take real balls.
“Let Her Go”—I am starting to feel like this is all a front for ending up on the soundtrack of indie movies, because I feel like this gonna be in a movie with Aubrey Plaza as the love interest within six months.
“Goodbye Weekend”—Because every generation gets the “Working for the Weekend” it deserves.
“Let My Baby Stay”—No.
“Passing Out Pieces”—This sounds like a lost Paul Williams joint, and I am most definitely down with this. Indie rock isn’t dead, y’all. Indie rock for president, 2K14.
“Treat Her Better”—I take it back. Indie rock is dead. R.I.P. indie rock.
“Chamber of Reflection”—I just found out Mac lives in Montreal, which is one of the raddest cities in North America. One time when I was there I smoked hash and walked around alone, and I remember staring at myself as I walked by this glass building in a French-ass neighborhood. I am reporting it here first: Mac DeMarco wrote this song after getting high and looking at that building. Shouts to Montreal.
“Go Easy”— I had this sinking feeling I had already heard this song and I accidentally went back into the middle of the album, but realized this is a new song. It turns out distinguishing 34 Mac DeMarco tracks from each other is the real challenge here.
“Jonny’s Odyssey”— I suppose the best case scenario would have been that I could report here that I have bought tickets to a Mac DeMarco show and pre-ordered his album (on 180 gram vinyl) from Insound. I haven’t.
But I guess I have a new appreciation for Mac that I didn’t have before, and I’ll at least be able to engage with my #indie Twitter friends in a meaningful way in relation to the (lack of) deep cuts on 2. And that’s all you can really hope for when you listen to music you don’t like; at least you can harass people on Twitter about it.
You can thank Andrew for doing all of this work for you, Mac DeMarco fans. He's on Twitter - @thestorfer
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