[ Captured Tracks / LP ]
Release Date: Monday 22 October 2012
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Making honest art can be terrifying; with 2, Montreal-based Mac DeMarco's second release this year, it feels like he's jumping into the deep end. On DeMarco's other 2012 record, the EP Rock and Roll Night Club, he tinkered with yacht rock, AM radio gold, and Bowie-like glam. The mixture injected an unsettling sleaziness into a funny, occasionally creepy collection of songs that walked the line between irony and sincerity.
In contrast, 2 goes right for the gut. DeMarco writes about life-- both the heavy moments and the mundane ones-- with economy and newfound grace. He's still not entirely upfront, but he has a knack for building songs where the realness of his subject matter lies just below the surface. In a Pitchfork guest list from earlier in October, DeMarco cites Jonathan Richman as a role model, mostly because he felt that Richman had "a very enjoyable time his whole life." Richman is an expert at writing entire worlds into his songs, an approach that DeMarco nails on 2.
Opening track "Cooking Up Something Good" is a strong example of his approach. A loose instrumental vamp slides into a greasy guitar line, as his laconic, sleepy voice delivers subtly heartbreaking observations. "Mommy's in the kitchen, cooking up something good/ And daddy's on the sofa, pride of the neighborhood". When the chorus comes in ("Oh, when life moves this slowly/ Oh, just try and let it go"), it's blindsiding, and his sense of defeat is palpable.
As the song progresses it becomes clear that what initially felt like an ode to the frustrating teenage days of struggling against your suburban surroundings is actually about a father figure manufacturing drugs in the basement. "Cooking Up Something Good" is about boredom and sadness and our skewed perception of time, but it's also about family secrets and how we construct emotional escape hatches to get away from the inescapable realities of blood ties. This careful world-building continues across the entire album, sometimes with a lighter touch. DeMarco's thinly veiled honesty shows up prominently on "Ode to Viceroy" where, over an unsettling guitar flange that fizzles into a flat shimmer, he sings about how much he loves smoking cigarettes. His voice skirts the edge of disinterest, but never quite gets there.
After spending time with 2, DeMarco's vocal deadpan starts to sound weary and wise. On "My Kind of Woman", he effectively makes a prom love song that will never get played at any actual prom-- it oozes beautifully simple and direct sentiment: "You're my kind of woman/ And I'm down on my hands and knees begging you please, baby, show me your world." That last line, "show me your world," returns to the concept that DeMarco and the people he sings about are all living, breathing entities, not blank slates to project emotion on. When they're gone from DeMarco's life, they still exist. It doesn't really get more honest than that. 8.2 / 10 Pitchfork.
Cooking Up Something Good
Freaking Out The Neighborhood
Ode To Viceroy
The Stars Keep On Calling My Name
My Kind Of Woman