This is a pleasant and easygoing work that may not be as sonically brilliant as DeMarco may have aimed for, but has enough ambition and uniqueness within musical layers to be a worthwhile listen for most general audiences.
These melodies were less like drawn out lines meant to complete an artistic landscape, and more like pockets of color carefully splattered onto the canvas. It was a very interesting and unique usage of the melodic layer, and one that turned out quite well. DeMarco has a great amount of musical ambition for someone who seems to try and cater to a more general modern audience. On this album, that ambition comes clearest through his low-register, adventurous, and well-paced sung lines. That being said, there was still plenty room for the melody to grow and become a more integral part to each song, which it never really did. Going back to the canvas analogy, it’s as if the painting already had a background with depth and color, and instead of adding action or focus to the picture, the painter splashed on a new color that filled space but wasn’t part of the existing picture. This in itself isn’t a negative, since many musicians, especially psychedelic rock bands, have done this successfully. I’ll get into this later, but the existing soundscape on this album wasn’t enough for the melodies to be so wayward. Songs like “For the First Time” are good examples of melody working well despite being rather contrasting to everything else. There was a nice use of space and silence to them, but with the direction of the rest of the music, melody could have been more cooperative and therefore more compelling. As a single entity, though, the melodies had a good level of intrigue, and I appreciated their uniqueness.
Rhythm was not a strength anywhere on this album, but DeMarco did find strength through neat chromatic passages within basic chord structures. The heavily featured subdominant and dominant were done to nice effect, never settling into any mundane loops. The harmonic repetitions did become a little stale without any rhythmic drive, but harmony always came alive with more chromaticism and dominance within the texture. “One More Love Song” exemplifies this well. At times when the bass line was prominent, the music was held together very well and had a nice groovy feel. Unlike the melody, the harmony did make sense with the overall musical intentions and was simple enough to be well received. It’s too bad that the lack of neat rhythm or cool progression within slower tempos gave the music some lethargic lapses. Still, these harmonies were more creative than what an average modern musician would come up with in this context. DeMarco shows that he is better than today’s average.
There were a couple of very delightful songs here, and they got that way through the tender and emotive guitar. The highlights of this were “My Old Man” and “Sister”. That level of emotiveness couldn’t keep up through the rest of the album, with the guitar techniques and usages becoming more and more plain. Aside from the occasional beauty from the solo guitar, this sound was still rather pleasant but altogether shallow. Additions such as the bass, synthesizer, and light percussion were cohesive enough to provide a generally nice, relaxed mood. It was more akin to a fun beach get-together than a truly absorbing sonic experience. It was pretty, but not necessarily beautiful. This is exemplified well in songs like “One Another”. There was no real magic to the straightforward pleasantness, although it seemed as if DaMarco was attempting to produce something on a more enchanting level. If DeMarco spent more effort on experimenting with newer sounds creating a broader, more spatial texture, the music would have been exponentially more meaningful. Not to mention, if would have given these existing melodies a better place to exist. This album was kind of like Roger Waters without David Gilmour. Sure, it’s musically nice, well-written, and sung with passion, but it’s missing a truly beautiful and enveloping sound. But hey, a beach party is nothing to really complain about. I’ll take this kind of plain pleasantry, which is still infused with passion and purpose, than today’s other musical plainness.
He’s young, new, and has a rapidly growing fan base. He’s in a great position in his career to get a large amount of attention for his third studio album, now his latest work. His slow, lackadaisical rock provides an option a modern audience looking for a good balance of listening with the music that currently makes the headlines. I don’t necessarily know how DeMarco happened to establish himself so well, since he isn’t very innovative and doesn’t have any captivating, standout songs. No matter how he got here, though, it’s true that this album will garner good attention, and is interesting enough to grow his fan base throughout the year.
Final Score: 127/180