There is no denying that the music industry continues to grow and evolve. Concerts have become huge spectacles and thanks to the Internet, the biggest artists have a worldwide fanbase with their music videos garnering billions of views on YouTube.
This increase in the magnitude of fanbases has impacted how albums are recorded and released. Today, the lifespan of a single album is often much longer than it used to be. Songs on the album will become radio hits 2-3 years after the album’s release as was the case with Katy Perry’s sophomore album Teenage Dream. This differs from some artists who tend to release an album every year without fail (as Rihanna did from 2005 to 2012). Because of the longer album cycle, album releases are often treated as blockbuster events with artists waiting two or more years in between albums to build hype. In spite of all this, there are still artists who are keeping it simple by focusing on making good music and putting on a fun show. One such artist is Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco.
DeMarco’s sound often feels unpolished and raw. The music does not possess the same qualities you’d find in a Top 40 pop song. The songs are all fairly short (under three minutes), while a typical pop song is three minutes and 30 seconds. DeMarco also puts together an album and releases it when he deems fit. So far, none of his releases have had the typical two- to three-year gap between them as is common today. The longest stretch between DeMarco’s releases was one and a half years.
DeMarco has been on the road for most of 2015 in support of his second full-length album Salad Days (released in April 2014) as well as his recent mini-LP Another One (released in August of this year). Another One was written, recorded and released entirely while DeMarco was traveling with his band. On Nov. 7, DeMarco stopped in Chicago for the second to last show of the tour. The artist and his band put on a light-hearted but intimate show at the Metro (3730 N. Clark St.).
The show opened with the first track from Another One, “The Way You’d Love Her,” which had fans immediately grooving to DeMarco’s relaxed performance. Watching DeMarco and the band was like watching a group of friends perform in a garage. They all seemed to be having a good time, drinking and joking around, perfectly suiting the music’s casual and chill vibe.
Next, DeMarco and the band played Salad Days’ title track, which is easily DeMarco’s most popular song with more than 11 million plays on Spotify.
Salad Days contributed to DeMarco’s quick success. Upon its release, the album was met with “universal acclaim” according to review-aggregate website Metacritic, scoring an 82/100. Metacritic is a website that collects reviews from critics, fans and media. It then assigns weights to the scores based on what source the review came from, generating an all-encompassing score. The album was also DeMarco’s biggest release at the time, becoming the second most played album on Canada community radio in 2014.
But even though the song as well as the album it’s from are hits, it was unusual that he performed it so early in the show. It would’ve made more sense to end the set list with “Salad Days,” especially considering the large reaction it got from the audience as soon as DeMarco sang the first words.
The show continued with a mixture of songs from both Salad Days and Another One, as well as a few older songs from his debut full-length album 2 (released in October 2012).
Instead of waiting a few years to release another album after his successful debut mini-LP Rock and Roll Night Club (released in March 2012), DeMarco followed up his debut with his first full-length album 2 just 7 months later in October the same year. 2’s sound is quite different from Rock and Roll Night Club as DeMarco abandoned glam rock for a more standard guitar rock approach, but even so, the album was well-received and scored an 81/100 on Metacritic which also equates “Universal Acclaim”.
Although many of DeMarco’s songs aren’t very upbeat, the band kept the crowd entertained. At one point, the band broke out into a jam session and seemed to improvise for a few minutes which drew cheers from the audience. Even later in the show, two of the band members crowd-surfed through a song, which energized the crowd.
After performing “Still Together,” the only acoustic song from 2, DeMarco came back onstage for an encore. As soon as he started the encore, I had to eat my words about DeMarco performing “Salad Days” too early. He chose to cover Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and he absolutely nailed it. DeMarco and company rocked the Metro to bring a big finale to the show.
Mac DeMarco is an artist to keep an eye on. There are not many artists who seem to love performing their songs as much as him. Even though his music has a retro vibe about it, the fact that he doesn’t follow the conventions many mainstream artists do makes him refreshing to listen to.