Is Another One a new Mac DeMarco album or not? It’s certainly a question up for debate through this review and the release itself. The label call it a ‘mini-LP’ but Mac has referred to it as the next release and at around 25 minutes, it’s only another track or two away from his previous full-lengths. Whatever your position, this was one of the more surprising releases of the year coming in between Mac’s seemingly never-ending touring and just over a year after Salad Days. It is another one though, I can definitely confirm that. And it’s a good one, but not one without some caveats.
On the surface level, calling this album Another One is either perfect or some self-deprecating humour from Mac. If you’ve been following the guy and his music for long enough then you may be relieved or unsurprised that his musical stylings remains firmly in tact here. There’s plenty of songs about love, chorus pedal-laden guitar, upbeat basslines and just a hint that the wheels have fallen off a little bit in places. Thankfully, Mac has been around the block for a good few years now (having been a part of Makeout Videotape before going solo) and so as many singer-songwriters have done across the years, he’s become very comfortable and good at making the kind of music he wants to produce, in this case chilled out and energetic and at other times having the uncanny valley effect of sounding like some long lost release from the early 70s but with the little thing here or there that ties it in the present day.
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Mac seemingly glides along with ease across 8 tracks, the things that made me get into his music in a big way last year are still there. He seemingly has that deceptive knack of making music that sounds simple at first but rather than being bland it’s incredibly catchy and has a lot more depth the more you listen to it. He again chose to record the album at home rather than in a studio (the warmness in his production has always lent a lot to Mac’s music) and leading up to the release of Another One hosted a BBQ sound-tracked by an entirely different album of instrumentals he recorded in 4 days. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if Another One had an equally quick turnaround as writing catchy, easy to listen to songs fit for a never-ending summer seems to come so easy to him.
So far, so Mac DeMarco. If I wanted to make writing this a little quicker I could stop there and just call it a good album/mini-LP/whatever, but I think it’s worth discussing a little further. It’s a debate I’ve been having in my head since first listening to the album about a month ago and even now I’m still not quite decided just how much I like Another One because ultimately, is a release that musically sounds very similar to the artist’s past two releases worth total praise and adulation? It’s great to fall in love with the sound of a musician but equally if we aren’t critical with even our favourite bands then do they just start taking us for granted?
I’m trying to broach this because while I like Another One and it’s a doozy to listen to from start to finish, part of me wonders if we’re in the peak period of Mac DeMarco, given just how big he’s gotten since 2 in 2012. There was a distinguishable if subtle change from 2 to Salad Days, and Another One just doesn’t feel as much of a progression. The songs are great and all, but there’s a lingering thought in the back of my head that Mac’s music is becoming a little predictable and formulaic. Maybe that’s a fine thought to have. After all, plenty of bands ply their trade on sticking to one sound throughout their careers (Foo Fighters release the same album every 3 or 4 years and they’re one of the world’s biggest rock bands) but for me it runs a risk of eventually becoming alienating, only appealing to the most hardcore of Mac DeMarco fans and slowly shutting out everyone else.
Maybe Mac’s thought about this himself and I certainly wouldn’t count him long-term because for as much as he plays the fraternal goofball on stage and in interviews, behind the persona he seems a smart guy. There are moments in Another One which aren’t all Mac DeMarco tropes. Chamber Of Reflection was a standout on Salad Days for me because it was a much slower and serious sounding take built entirely around a booming vintage synth sound and likewise on Another One in the midst of all the capo-assisted chord work the title track is a weird little synth number but the best track on the release because it changes the formula up. Likewise with A Heart Like Hers and My House By The Water, Another One’s equivalent to Jonny’s Odyssey and an odd atmospheric instrumental of a lonely synthesizer in the midst of a raging storm.
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What I hope is that these sorts of variations are a hint of what direction Mac might head in next, continuing to make great music while at least starting to go in some different directions musically before it all just becomes formulaic and tiresome. A crazy alternate theory might be just that Mac becomes a one-man Grateful Dead, where his live performance becomes the key talking point and the music is just part of it, followed by hundreds of Mac-heads around the country. Maybe save that for a Mac biopic that he can play himself in. (If Ronda Rousey picking up what Eminem started in 8 Mile is any indication.)
So it is another one, and one worth talking and having a conversation about. The release itself doesn’t feel like it as much to say as Salad Days or 2, but there’s no arguing that Mac knows exactly how to appeal to his core audience, knocking out hit song after hit song and it’s still a nice surprising release in what was expected to be a fallow year for the Canadian. Still, just how long the honeymood period can last and what happens next is perhaps more impactful than Another One will be in the long run.