Mac DeMarco is basically a more working class, Canadian counterpart to lo-fi “hypnagogic pop” artist Ariel Pink. Whereas Pink had a thoroughly middle-class upbringing, attending an artist school and being exposed to the urban environment of the Beverly Hills area of California, his music exhibits an exposure to a wide variety of music and a kind of boredom and apathy that is uniquely a part of middle-class life. DeMarco hails from the rather remote oil town of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He has interests in the more DIY part of the spectrum of singer-songwriters, like Jonathan Richman and even Shuggie Otis. To that he adds a general awareness of contemporary indie folk rock. His lyrics are confined to rather limited themes, and take things more at face value than someone like Pink. DeMarco has, in this sense, a more blue collar perspective, more concerned with sensual gratification in mapped out avenues, with only minor detours (the scope of these detours are somewhat exaggerated in his music). He also overuses certain processing effects on his guitar. He’s committed to creating a lo-fi sound from what seems like higher fidelity equipment. This is a little problematic. The music is a bit disingenuous. His melodic sense is not particularly developed, and the songs kind of drag after a while. The best here is “Freaking Out the Neighborhood,” which can almost pass for what Pink was doing a decade earlier.
Call it hypnagogic pop, cultural anthropology, or the musical corollary of “Hansen’s law of third-generation return,” there are plenty of musicians operating in the early new century trying to reconfigure the music of the past that was never associated with people their social status before. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti spring immediately to mind, but in their own ways, acts like Thundercat and Kishi Bashi have the same sorts of attitudes, even if they utilize arrestingly different styles and techniques. Mac DeMarco represents sort of the singer-songwriter contingent. Salad Days has wit and character. But it also overuses a few gimmicks, like an effect that makes the guitar sound like it is wobbling or maybe even like the strings are rhythmically bending, and many of the songs fail to make their mark. If you hear one of these songs you’ve practically heard them all–but if you have to choose, pick the title track. DeMarco has talent and promise. He’ll just need to work at broadening his range a bit.