Montreal’s Mac DeMarco already has one 2012 release under his belt, and it’s an interesting one. Rock And Roll Night Club EP—from the cross-dressing DeMarco cover photo on down—is a sleazy affair full of Lou Reed-inspired androgyny and late-night beats. In particular, “Baby’s Wearin’ Blue Jeans” showed off DeMarco’s skill at imparting the kind of seedy personality you’d encounter in ‘70s Times Square.
But the back few songs of that EP showed off DeMarco’s breezy side, too, and that’s what he’s more concerned with on 2, his full-length debut for Captured Tracks. Gone is the sense of creeping dread that oozed from Rock And Roll’s home-recorded tunes. 2 keeps that lo-fi feel, but it’s more of a stoned jam session than a late-night street walk.
If there’s one unifying theme from his two releases, it’s DeMarco’s inventive guitar playing. He’s got a bubbly style that skitters from fret to fret with precision. Occasionally, as on the sublime lite-disco of “Freaking Out The Neighborhood,” it sounds downright tropical and foreign as it dances with the lockstep bass and drums. The recording might be purposefully crappy, but there’s no denying the outsized hooks on “Annie” or “Robson Girl,” courtesy of DeMarco’s chiming six-string.
Even with the pop sheen, a cloud hangs over the whole proceeding. “Sherrill” and “Dreaming” sit heavy underneath added atmospherics, and DeMarco sings about “just tryin’ to let the sun in” on the shimmering “Ode To Viceroy.” The song even concludes with a toke and a cough, in case there was any doubt to DeMarco’s chilled-out mindset. He seems to really only have two speeds here: mid-tempo and slightly slower than mid-tempo. Unfortunately, the songs’ similarities can blur together even on repeated listens, and only the truly inspired moments will poke out from the haze.
Still, even in this low-stakes environment, DeMarco knows how to knock a few home. Album opener “Cooking Up Something Good” is tailor-made for barbeques, bouncing along with scruffy charm. The album’s lo-fi coolness might suggest otherwise, but the muted trad-rock of J.J. Cale seems to be a touchstone, and DeMarco isn’t afraid to indulge in his purely saccharine side, like on “The Stars Keep On Calling My Name.”
It’s certainly a far cry from the glammed-up persona we first met, and that’s ultimately what makes 2 worth it: while being the only sober one at a basement jam session is no fun, you can certainly pick up on DeMarco’s infectious adventurousness. At this point, he’s just a dude trying out ideas in a bedroom, but once he figures out how to marry that rock and roll danger with his breezy melodies, he’ll be cooking up something for sure.