Let us begin with a moment of silence for the traditional rock star. Let us bow our heads for the heartbreaker boy looking bored behind his Ray Bans and a Fender Stratocaster while a cigarette lit by a groupie dangles from his lips. Let us look with tenderness upon his pervasive rise and slow decline into the dated and quaint.
And let us now continue with a moment of celebration for the postmodern rock star – those musicians who love their boyfriends, act goofy on social media and adopt personas beyond the default settings of aloof and/or artfully wasted. Let us celebrate those rock stars in their t-shirts from tourist shops, the ones who learned how to admire Reed and Bolan without needing to imitate them. Let us celebrate the accessible rock star, the authentically human guitar hero. And let us celebrate Mac DeMarco, the slacker king of approachable rock stars everywhere.
DeMarco is, in fact, more approachable than ever thanks to “My House By The Water”, the final track of his fourth studio album, Another One. He finishes the song by sharing his home address and offering to make a cup of coffee for anyone who drops by. It’s not fake (given how people have actually dropped by), but it is classic Mac to the nth degree: funny, sincere, unassuming, and strikingly unpretentious.
Same goes for all of Another One, an eight-track concept album about love and nothing else – making it arguably the most straightforward concept album of the last decade. The lyrics are equal parts charmed and charming, heartfelt sentiments swimming among sweet morsels of seventies keys and guitar. Another One is a study in simplicity: melodically and thematically consistent and wholly pleasurable. At times DeMarco adheres to that consistency too closely, but his commitment to the record’s concept is audibly deliberate and carefully measured. He knows what he’s doing, even if he is occasionally clumsy in the delivery.
DeMarco possesses Another One with a refreshing intimacy as he dwells on the highs and lows of love with a light touch. While his melodies take inspiration from the kinder side of the seventies, the clear end rhymes and mostly innocent sentiments within his lyrics recall the boy-meets-girl feel of early Beatles songs. Most refreshing, however, is DeMarco’s ability to discuss rejection and hope and heartache without veering into sniveling entitlement; the bittersweet “No Other Heart” steers clear of the nice-guy-in-the-friendzone vitriol to channel the same harmless longing that made ABBA’s “Take A Chance On Me” a pop classic. DeMarco as loverboy is the album’s most enduring quality; that he manages to be the loverboy without disrespecting or exploiting the object of his affections – “Will she love me again tomorrow? / I don’t know, don’t think so / And that’s fine, fine by me / So long as I know she’s happy,” he sings on standout “Without Me” – is a much-needed break from indie rock’s modus operandi.
Between the delightful guitar solo on the treble-y “The Way You’d Love Her” and the midtempo cheer of “I’ve Been Waiting For Her”, DeMarco pinpoints that familiar can’t-help-but-smile love high. He’s none to shabby when delving into the downside either, leaving Another One with a dud-free tracklist that finishes in 24 minutes – excess-free and brief enough to get the feeling(s) across without turning overwrought and heavy-handed. Like his album, DeMarco has no interest in grand gestures, leather jackets or love songs resembling epic poetry. He revels in his role as approachable rock star for the people, and now he has one more album to show just how excellent he is at his role.