As snow falls on the frozen streets of Brooklyn, NY, a young artist adds a cigarette butt to a crowded ashtray in between guitar strums. The warm hiss of a reel-to-reel tape recorder fills the room, while he prepares to do another take. This is a portrait of the modern day recording studio—a crowded apartment filled with makeshift equipment, laundry, and plumes of tobacco smoke. For Mac DeMarco, however, this is the origin of a breakthrough record.
Artist of the Week: Mac DeMarco
DeMarco is the quintessential punk; the gap-toothed slacker in a backwards hat that you pray your daughter doesn’t bring to dinner; the guy you wish you could be. When he speaks, he paints masterworks of profanity and dabbles in the art of toilet humor. He takes naked pictures with a devilish grin, adjusts a signature sweat-stained hat to the perfect angle of disregard, and dares you not to smile back. Yet when he play music, DeMarco transforms.
With all this in mind, if one were to consider Salad Days, Demarco’s latest album, standard thought would surely lead to the prompt dismissal of the record as “hipster trash” (said through a sneer, of course). There’s the lo-fi backstory, the artist’s infamous persona, and the sudden critical hype, all of which prove surefire signals of an indie-du-jour buzz act. But as Salad Days begins to play, all of this hesitation instantly melts away.
Mac DeMarco’s second full-length LP doesn’t transport the listener back to the dreary setting of a drafty Brooklyn apartment; instead, it proclaims the arrival of warmth with laid-back strumming and DeMarco’s uncharacteristically saccharine singing voice. Tracks like “Blue Boy” display a truly unique shimmering guitar tone, and “Let My Baby Stay” serenades the artist’s long time girlfriend. Salad Days sounds strikingly mature and fresh, as opposed to the cobbled together mess one would expect upon seeing its birthplace.
Mac DeMarco refers to the Bed-Stuy apartment in question as the “Chamber of Reflection,” which shares its name with the standout track of the new album. The sounds produced in this musical Fortress of Solitude differ from the moody ambiance that dominates Brooklyn’s underground at the moment, a disparity that’s perhaps thanks to DeMarco’s lightheartedness and Canadian childhood.
Though Salad Days suggests fascinating depth, Mac DeMarco’s nonchalant disposition proves a crucial ingredient to his recent success. In a genre flooded by a sea of musicians who take themselves too seriously and fans who split hairs over things like the creative merits of a sophomore album, DeMarco appears perfectly content in his own skin, and his music flourishes as a result.
Yet even as we sit here discussing the understated beauty and nuance of Salad Days, it’s not hard to imagine a carefree Mac DeMarco in his apartment, lighting a cigarette and laughing about a joke he’d heard.
See Mac live via Rukkus.
Article by Nicolas White