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Open and shut: Mac DeMarco’s Another One

Stephen Malkmus kept his address to himself, but in an era of oversharing, perceptive indie weirdos have no more privacy reservations than the rest of us do. Mac DeMarco’s level of fame is manageable enough to allow for some transparency, and he’s reasoned that discovering his place of residence requires listening all the way through Another One. It’s a pity this only takes 23 minutes, because DeMarco has reached a creative level occupied by few of his peers.

So why make another mini-album after two full-lengths? And if you’re able to knock off high quality songs every day for a week, why not keep going a little longer? I doubt he’s messing with us for the hell of it – spite doesn’t really register on Mac’s emotional pie chart – but given the alternate options of an LP or an EP (and the healthy momentum of his career), the chosen format is neither here nor there. Perhaps it’s an attempt to deflate hype built up by last year’s Salad Days, or maybe he’d said all he needed to.

The title works on two levels - first as a gateway to the record’s themes of lost and unrequited love, second as a cocky nod to his prolific output. A commonly rorted perk of songwriting is how it enables one to have the last word in every dispute, but DeMarco resists the temptation to use private matters for point scoring. Names aren’t named, arguments are left off the record, with ambiguous “you”s and “her”s leaving plenty of interpretation room. This isn’t vagueness; the lack of specificity allows DeMarco’s experiences to serve as a starting point for broader matters.

“No Other Heart” examines the foolishness of fantasising about a relationship that might well never happen, but implies a cautionary tale instead of bluntly stating one. Internal conflict between dreamer and realist is represented by the verse and chorus, with pleas to “give this lover boy a try” answered each time by the sober refrain of “her heart belongs to another”. The bassline could almost tell the story by itself. A McCartney riff busily skips through the D major scale over love-struck lyrics, before darkening the mood with a single note on the word “heart”.

DeMarco has spoken of a desire to simplify his songs, and there’s new evidence of that development. None of the eight here have a bridge, nor are there any jarring meters like the 6/4 strut of “Cooking Up Something Good”. While such eccentricities are missed, the decision pays off. Trimmed structures benefit these songs; parts can repeat with a lower risk of overstaying their welcome. “Just to Put Me Down” falls a little short; the four-bar groove not agile enough to disguise a chorus too similar to its verses. But it’s redeemed by an excellent guitar solo, with tightly wound lines complementing the frustration in the lyrics. “I’ve Been Waiting for Her” brings a jolt of up-tempo optimism just when mid-tempo melancholy threatens to overwhelm. The directness of the song is a credit to DeMarco’s craft; it takes talent to write a monotone chorus that you’re actually glad to have stuck in your head.

For the second release in succession, DeMarco breaks the fourth string by greeting his audience at the end, this time inviting people over to his house for a cup of coffee. You wouldn’t expect many New Yorkers to be arsed with a two hour train trip to the city’s suburban outskirts, but dozens of fans have already accepted his offer, and a lot more are bound to visit now that Another One is released. To be that accessible while living in a remote area is no mean feat, and similarly, DeMarco’s music has connected with a substantial audience through a style entirely of his own. This slight yet delightful record goes a fair way to explaining why people are making that pilgrimage to Bayfield Ave in Arverne.

 

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