Whether his heartbreak is the fault of geography or the turn of love’s fickle tides, Another One continues to flex DeMarco’s unique gifts for phrasing and double meanings.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to catch Mac DeMarco live at the Hideout Block Party/A.V. Fest in Chicago. His set was a prime example of the Hideout Block Party's wide appeal; according to the family-friendly fest’s organizer Katie Tuten, a 16-year-old had recommended DeMarco be included and then it was so. This demographic's loyalty was apparent during his set, as I shared space up front with what seemed to be a throng of rising high school seniors. It was pure magic, though. Katie's husband Tim, who served as the Master of Ceremonies, proudly proclaimed "You have been inoculated, whether you know it or not," before introducing the band who would give the screen-wearied generation a rarely afforded opportunity to participate in the present moment.
At the end of his set, DeMarco opened up about his personal life. As a Canadian and no stranger to the peculiarities and particulars of our nation's immigration system, DeMarco shared that his girlfriend had just been deported back to Ireland with little hope of swift return. The heartache fueled a beautiful rendition of "Still Together", making clear his intentions to get her back to the States, no matter the cost. The last thing I wrote in my notes from the set was "He’d never break anyone's heart on purpose."
Another One, full of the dreamy tremolo that DeMarco and his band have perfected since their breakthrough 2, provides a bleak update on our boy's love life. The mini LP's eight tracks adeptly catalog the painful process of healing one’s wounds. Looking for parallels to the seven stages of grief might be a little too on-the-nose (the skeleton is certainly there) but what’s most curious about Another One is the specificity of DeMarco’s grieving process. What happens when a goofy good-natured dude takes a blow, let alone one whose career it is to publicly process and share his experiences? The result is an interesting snapshot that starkly contrasts the picture he’s let us to piece together thus far. Another One is boldly vulnerable with little bitterness, an ultimate guide for how to incorporate dusting yourself off into your productivity instead of allowing it to derail you.
Whether his heartbreak is the fault of geography or the turn of love’s fickle tides, Another One continues to flex DeMarco’s unique gifts for phrasing and double meanings. The title is even multi-faceted, referring to "another one" could be a way to weaken the importance of his loss by seeing her as just another girl he’s lost, but could also highlight his disappointment of having lost again. It could be in reference to her having another lover, or to downplay the power of her charms by seeing her as just another of his lovers. It could also be a wink and a nudge to toy with the listener’s high expectations, presenting the follow-up to his well-loved Salad Days as just another album to buy, to take in and keep on the shelf.
"The Way You’d Love Her" is the self-defeated shrug that follows loss, before it really processes. Here, the subject distances himself from his own heartbreak by simply lamenting that he "Never really got your chance / To show her what it really means to love her / The way you’d love her / The way you’d love to love her." It’s likely a half-true thesis (he had his chance, but he might not have fully shown her how deeply he could care for her) but emotion is inexact. "Another One" refines this fear by introducing the paranoia not only of not having been enough for the person who was enough for you, but that someone else might be. 'No Other Heart' poses an interesting moment of reflection: when DeMarco croons "What could you lose? / Well, for one: her heart / Belongs to another / And no other heart will do", he’s simultaneously presenting both the imposing third party and the victim of his treachery. It is both a seedy inquiry and a bold challenge to end all inquiries.
"Just to Put Me Down" and "A Heart Like Hers" usher in the record's bitter middle as DeMarco turns the "another one" motif against his narrator’s ex — "I never want another one / Like her / Coming around / Picking me up just to put me down." The change in instrumentation also suits the new tone as warmly warbling synths underscore DeMarco’s reaching falsetto on cautionary lines like "Never believe / In a heart like hers again."
It isn’t long before we get back to our regular programming, as "I’ve Been Waiting For Her" finds DeMarco’s narrator with a new crush and some respite from his aching. In his NPR album walkthrough DeMarco shared that he wrote the mini LP's songs in a little more than a week, which explains its tracks' straightforward structures and strong recurring lyrics and themes. "Give up my life for the rhythm / For the beat of a heart like hers / Started over to the rhythm / To the beat of a heart like hers" twists the lyrics of the preceding "A Heart Like Hers" to something more hopeful. This cyclical practice, which shows up in a few iterations across the album’s 20-ish minutes, also perfectly captures how maddening loss can be and how hard it is to find yourself again, now alone. This is perhaps best presented in "Without Me", which seems a fitting complement to "Still Together". The latter stands as a declaration of blind faith, driven by the ego, while 'Without Me' takes the receiving party into better account. It is Another One's stage of acceptance — "Will she find love again / Tomorrow? / I don’t know / I hope so / And that’s fine / Fine by me / As long as I know she’s happy / Happy without me."
Before departing after the contemplative instrumental closer "My House By the Water", DeMarco gives the listener an (already much-publicized) invitation to join him for a cup of coffee at his home in Averne, Queens, New York. While the offer might just be the result of his good nature, after hearing an album of one degree-removed hurt, you don’t want to go just for the story — you want to be there for the kid.