When Brooklyn-based label Captured Tracks put out 22-year-old Canadian Mac DeMarco's first EP, “Rock & Roll Night Club,” this past March, critics didn't know what to make of it. The 12-song collection, most of which was recorded when the artist was sick one weekend, featured some catchy lo-fi songs that poked fun at old rock and roll stereotypes. “Instead of being Mr. Hello I Love You, I was all, 'What's up? I'll drive my motorbike downtown,'” the musician said in a recent interview with ARTINFO. But it also featured demonically voiced interludes, similar to sleazy '70s radio spots, which were genuinely unsettling. Was it all a joke? DeMarco doesn't take himself too seriously, so to some extent, yes; but the EP also featured a level of melody and song craft that's rare in simple parody.
If the Montreal-based DeMarco still has some skeptics, his debut full length, “2,” should sway them. Gone are the “joke” interludes and creepy vibe of “Rock & Roll Night Club,” replaced by even stronger songwriting, more catchy hooks, and added guitar jangle (it was there before, now it's been turned up a couple notches). There’s still an edge to it, though, a weirdness, that stops DeMarco's music from coming off as bland, a curse that so much soft rock falls prey to. Artists who sound like DeMarco rarely write songs called “Cooking Up Something Good” or “Freaking Out the Neighborhood,” or dedicate tracks to budget Canadian cigarette brands (“Ode to Viceroy”). DeMarco doesn't think he's nearly as odd as writers and fans think, but he says he's fine with the impression being out there. He's just being himself after all. "It's nice to have anyone saying anything, even if it's that I'm weird and stuff," he says. "It's great."
While “2” may not see DeMarco breaking free of the “weird” tag, it might stop people from thinking of him as a slacker. Releasing an EP, which the artist himself considers a full length, and an album within six months of one another is tough work. Despite this, the Canadian doesn't consider himself all that prolific; he just wants to get his music out there. “When people think of someone being prolific, it's like, 'He's got a vault with 5,000 songs in it,' or something, but I just kind of pick them out of the air when they float by.”
Odd, prolific, whatever you want to call him, the one thing that everyone can agree on about DeMarco is that he represents a fresh voice in indie rock. He has proven himself adept at mixing slow ballads dedicated to his girlfriend with raucous bar jams about ladies wearing blue jeans, while still maintaining a cohesive sound. Maybe this can be traced back to the fact that he actually seems to be having fun, something that was clear in his slew of live performances he played at this year’s CMJ Music Marathon. In those sets, DeMarco and his band ran through songs at a breakneck pace, veering in and out of covers (the Police's “Message in a Bottle” showed up twice), while leading impromptu chants of bartenders' names at Brooklyn concert venue Public Assembly. Yes, the quartet looked exhausted at times, but more than anything they looked to be earnestly enjoying the moment.