Currywurds - Devourable Content
June 2018

A COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF MAC DEMARCO’S DEMOS


Mackenzie Patel
Photos by Mackenzie Patel
︎ ︎
There’s nothing “new” to be said about Mac DeMarco, but he’s a sexy, captivating, and talented man, so I’m going to write about him anyway. My first exposure to him was Chamber of Reflection two years ago, and somehow, I disliked it - loathed it, actually. The vocals seemed high-pitched and indistinct, and the tempo crawled like a stoned turtle. Salad Days was the most normal song I related to, especially the lyrics of “Always feeling tired, smiling when required, write another year off and kindly resign.” I dipped into DeMarco again when my friend demanded that I listen to “2” in its entirety: “All the songs sound the same, but they’re fantastic,” he said emphatically. And seeing as Michael and I’s music tastes run parallel (@Tame Impala), I trusted his recommendation – and after that album, Mac DeMarco was a different man to me.

It’s rare that artists release an album of demos; it’s a door into their perception, a free biography if you listen carefully enough. It makes playlists longer and stimulates “underground” conversation, a weed-out for true fans of Mac. And since I’m bored and excited, I decided to analyze each of his demo tracks and compare them to the finished products, adding my amateur opinion along the way.

2 (October 2012)


1.       Cooking Up Something Good

During the live recording of this song, DeMarco said “This song is about my dad’s methamphetamine habits.” I can’t tell if he was joking, but regardless of the Class A drug implications, this song is impeccable. The finished version could be Walter White’s anthem, heat and pavement and a bored suburbia coming to mind. The demo is loose guitar and even looser cooking, the vocals dreamy and blunted. As with most of Mac’s demos, the sound echoes and seems far away, like it’s hiding under a blanket.  
2.       Dreaming

These 2 minutes and 22 seconds feature a wistful, near-twang guitar riff, but the bassline is the firmest element in this song about girls in dreams. The lyrics are simplistic, as if any girl could be described by the whopping 46 words sung. The two demos for this song, Dreamin’ Slow and Dreamin’ Fast, still honor the integrity of the bass, although I prefer their spaced-out mien to the polished track. Mac’s voice drops an octave in Dreamin’ Slow and puts me to sleep with his mellowness. Dreamin’ Fast is loud and nips the ear with a bang. The nervous energy is daydreams away from the slow version, especially the ending at 1:42 that cuts off, leaving the listener confused and wondering if Spotify crashed. This suddenness echoes the real ending of dreams – abrupt and dazed, the dreamer wishing that girl was sleeping next to him. 
3.       Freaking Out the Neighborhood

Since I never freaked out the neighborhood (I rode my scooter and picked up roadside nails), I live vicariously through this track. It’s the best song on 2 since the lyrics are an apology to Mac’s mother – they’re not above love (or lack thereof) or some other ridiculous trope. They’re innocent and touching, the twangy guitar even sounding like bikes and scraped knees. As for the demo, the strings are less defined, and all the sounds muddle like a pea green color. The guitar is less cheeky than in the finished song, although I enjoyed the pure instrumentality of the demo. The main attraction – the barbecue guitar* – is intact and playful, the random notes and little elaborations making me happy. I imagine a dog lolling his tongue to the demo, no words about terrorizing neighbors making her bark.
4       Annie

Mac’s girlfriend is named Kiki, so this song is confusing from the get go. The spacey words are delivered in his usual “slackers anthem” style, although they sound more careless than his other 2 tracks. The demo bogs Annie down with slower guitars and lazy drums. There’s also a tinge of higher vocals that outline Mac’s regular voice, the “I’m going down” part sounding more sensual. Demo Annie is delayed, like Mac just woke up and is trying to be sexy in Star Wars pajamas (which I’m sure he’s still attractive in). The ending guitar and bass lines have an unexpected personality.
5.       Ode to Viceroy

I could disintegrate to this song; it’s that calming. The guitars and tempo are nothing wild, but “oh, honey I’ll smoke you till I’m dying” is so lyrical that I feel young and dead simultaneously. This song is about the cigarette brand, Viceroy, and Mac’s relationship to his addiction. From “early in the morning” to late at night, he’s tugging on the nicotine, even writing songs about it that end in “There really is nothing quite like it." The Ode to Viceroy demo is an instrumental track entitled Lonely Shredder. And it sounds so innocent for being about addiction – the smoke puts me to sleep.
6.       Robson Girl

I knew Mac DeMarco had a dad vibe, but this song affirms that trait with “Robson girl, sit down by your daddy” repeated six times. His voice sounds longing, almost painful, and that crazed guitar at 1:37 communicates more than just slacker rock. According to Mac, Robson Girl is about Robson Street in Vancouver; he would watch Japanese and Korean girls walk by since he always wanted an Asian girlfriend. The Robson Girl demo leaks just as much desire, although in a more muted and lazy way -even the guitars are tired. The demo ending doesn’t include the “that’s a wrap” line the finished work croons; so much smoothness, inserted by a genius.
7.       The Stars Keep On Calling My Name

As the definition of easy listening, this song is light, thoughtless, and free, nothing difficult about skipping town with some girl. Life seems simple with his blasé voice narrating it. The guitar solo at 1:50 reminds me of Wilco or an indie bluegrass band, the matter-of-fact twang reducing life to yes or no decisions. This demo is the scratchiest and rawest of them all.  The song sounds like it was recorded under a shag carpet, nothing clear or precise about it. And I could get drunk on “kick it Rick” before the guitar solo, Mac’s voice slow making nighttime easy.
8.       My Kind of Woman

This song is what it truly means to like someone. I feel drunk and warm and pinned to the floor by a slumber whenever I hear it. A man is crumbling, on his knees, all because of a single sweetheart – and Mac delivers that drunk love feeling through stunned words and a casual beat. The demo is a My Kind of Womaninstrumental, although words aren’t needed to communicate its intensity. The guitars are in love, the drums are happy, and it’s so incredible that I also kind of hate it. I think that’s why Mac chose pure instrumentals for this track – love is so present and pink that words add sugar to something already so sweet.
9.       Boe Zaah

There’s not much to analyze with this song; I forgot it existed until I started researching and writing this frivolous piece. The instrumentals are a great background for lighting up some Viceroys or other vices – they’re stretched out like a full-bodied yawn, the eyelids halfway to being closed. There isn’t a demo since the finished version sounds like a demo itself - and even Reddit can’t explain the gibberish of Boe Zaah, which leaves no hope for the rest of us.
10.       Sherrill

Mac’s voice sounds uncharacteristically clear and gentle, which fits because this song is about his grandmother, Sherrill. Although she was an opera singer who lived in New York, Mac inherited her musical finesse and toned it down to lazybone rock – which I 100% prefer. The tenderness is reflected in lyrics such as “And if you go, don't cry, I'll be right there at your side.” A Red Bull article also wrote “Mac can be a real sweetheart sometimes.” Obviously! The demo elongates the pronunciation of Sherrill, and it becomes a little monotonous. But that’s why we love Mac, right?
11.       Still Together

As I was reading these lyrics (especially the outro with Kiki), my eyes started tearing up – what is wrong with me? It’s easy love, fits like a glove describes this song, and that easiness is reflected in the simple acoustic and stripped vocals. High-pitched Mac sings in all his lazy glory and adjusting to his voice took a few listens. There is no demo for this track; like Boe Zaah, Still Together feels like an unfinished recording that slipped through editing. The dialogue at the end is so intimate and uncut that the listener feels intrusive- and for being so coarse, Still Together was the perfect way to end 2.

Salad Days (April 2014)

1.       Salad Days

“Salad Days” is a reference to the Shakespeare play Antony and Cleopatra, in which Cleopatra references her youth as

“My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood.”

And here I was, thinking Mac DeMarco had a weird thing for lettuce… The essence of Salad Days is getting older and realizing your peak or prime might’ve slipped by already. This well shit moment is communicated through gloomy lyrics (i.e. Rolling through life, to roll over and die…salad days are gone) in an almost nonchalant voice, like Mac is shrugging his shoulders at time. Even his mom is “acting like [his] life’s already over”! The demo is slower-paced (of course) and fades in and out. The demo plays through a prism, everything disoriented and bright, but the strong downbeat is more pronounced than in the finished recording. 
2.       Blue Boy

MAC DEMARCO’S REAL NAME IS VERNOR WINFIELD MACBRIARE SMITH IV. I’m sorry, I was looking at these pithy lyrics and the name was scrawled underneath Come down, sweetheart, grow up. Nomenclature shock aside, this track reminds me of a middle school boy, skittish and with a shaggy haircut. Mac sounds fatherly from his pedestal of advice. The Blue Boy demo lets guitar take a backseat, the synthesizer (which is less pronounced in the actual album) standing out during the chorus and twirling down at the end.
3.       Brother

Opening with a wistful shit,this song is a redundant anthem against being common. It’s about slowing down and “letting it go,” which seems to be a common theme of Mac DeMarco. The guitar in the Salad Days album is less twangy than 2 and dreamier, as if the strings matured and took a Xanax. The chaos of vocals and random snippets at the end follow the go homemantra.  The Brother demo was unexpected; the vocals were gentle and more prominent (whereas they’re usually stifled in the demos). It resembled an a Capella song and focused solely on the tone/delivery of the lyrics. 
4.       Let Her Go

Ah! A song about heartbreak! The contrast between the cheerful melody and lyrics such as “Separation's supposed to make the heart grow fond, but it don't,” is fantastic and relatable. This track exacerbates “go-with-the-flow” even more with Mac’s ending words:

“Or you can keep her
It's okay
It's up to you
Make your own choice
Whatever you gotta do
God bless”

And this is why I’m fascinated by Mac DeMarco. He juxtaposes left and right, and then debunks the supposed meaning of his song with a few words. {Fun fact: Mac borrowed the melody of this song from Tale As Old As Time in Beauty & The Beast.} I couldn’t find a demo for Let Her Go. The demos in general for Salad Days include random instrumental pieces (i.e. Pepperoni Playboy, Organ Ronald Donkey Water, Horse Hot Wee Wee Water)that don’t correspond to any songs. It’s a messy, Mac DeMarco puzzle with pieces that’ll never fit.
5.       Goodbye Weekend

This song assumes a new meaning when it’s 11:58 p.m. on a Sunday night. If it wasn’t obvious before that Mac gives zero fucks, this song affirms that with So don't go telling me how this boy should be leading his own life. The lyrics in Goodbye Weekend are more detailed and thorough than the typical Mac DeMarco song – it’s the instrumentals that are borderline bland. The demo is slow with softer vocals (less fuck off vibes than the finished song). Mac utters Ah, Gigi Bungsu at the end, which is probably the most interesting line in Salad Days. It means “wisdom teeth” in Indonesian and references a song by Makeout Videotape, a band Mac used to be in. Gigi Bungsu has early Mac DeMarco imprints all over: psychedelic guitar, pithy lyrics, space. The Mac in 2014 might characterize Gigi Bungsu as his Salad Days, his prime before becoming mainstream and a Pitchfork boy.
6.       Let My Baby Stay

If every girl had a Mac DeMarco, this world would be a pleasant place. His girlfriend was at risk of being deported to Canada, so Mac wrote this love ballad for her. Livin’ with her Macky is the best line, although the track doesn’t rival My Kind of Woman in terms of being romantic. The demo and finished track are day and night, with the latter reminding me of a Hawaiian luau and the former having the typical Mac features (i.e. spacey guitar, simple synth, hazy vocals). The finished track was “stripped down” and floral-sounding, which is unusual for Macky.
7.       Passing Out The Pieces

Macky’s been giving out too much authenticity and sexiness – and he’s tired! The organ-like tones elevate this song from slacker anthem to holy verse, and my immediate response was sympathy.Watching my life, passing right in front of my eyes is all too familiar, especially when you’re an artistic type and overthink everything. The demo only exacerbates the keyboard synthesizer until it dominates the song, Mac’s vocals echoey and mushy. Salad Days Demos also included Organ Ronald Donkey Water andPotato Boy, which somewhat resemble the track with their synth. It could be a song off of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, similar to Being For The Benefit of Mr.Kite or Within You Without You.
8.      Treat Her Better

Mac DeMarco manages to distill complex human states into easy, digestible lyrics. Emotions are easy to him, like smoking a pack of Viceroys. This song contains overtones of Let Her Go, and in my mind, they are Salad Days sisters. According to Genius, this track is about Mac’s guitarist beating his girlfriend, but it’s hard to believe in abusers with this floral guitar and simple drums. There wasn’t an explicit demo for Treat Her Better, butPepperoni Playboy could be its cousin. Pitchfork recorded a short documentary about Mac with the latter name – it’s thirty minutes of cigarette smoke and “dad” Macky, and it’s extremely entertaining when watched loopy.
9.       Chamber of Reflection

This is Mac DeMarco’s most stunning song to date: writing about it would drag its transcendence to our uncouth level. There’s no demo, and it seems like Chamber of Reflection came out of left field – where’s the lazy guitars and silly voice, the wacky Macky advice and daddy issues? When Alone Again is repeated 12 times, it’s hard to feel sane and like a human being. It sounds cultish and heavy, especially the lone drums that open the act. The slowed down YouTube version is S I C K, and one astute user (Biscuit Kit) commented “I'm pretty sure this made me high.”
10.       Go Easy

And here’s another song about Macky’s girlfriend, Kiki (just marry the girl already). Deportation, Canada, repetition, trippy guitars, stoned drums, etc. Maybe it was my iPhone speakers, but the demo was louder and clearer. There was less fuzz and more of a jazz element to it, especially in the guitar solo around 1:30.
11.       Jonny’s Odyssey

This guitar opening is a treat, like a popsicle for a sweaty and out-psychedeliced listener. By the end of this Salad Days analysis, I feel strung out, high, romantic, reflective, and unhealthily relaxed – and all of these emotions are encapsulated in Jonny’s Odyssey. Instrumental and with twenty-five seconds of silence at the end, this easy beat feels like Mac DeMarco’s soul. The last seconds whisper “Hi guys, this is Mac,
Thank you for joining me, See you again soon, b-bye.”
The instrumentals are normally buried on the demo, but there was something special about Jonny and his Odyssey to land on the finished album. And there really is nothing quite like it. Similar instrumentals on the demo that didn’t reach Salad Daysinclude Ken The Wolf Boy, Organ Ronald Donkey Water, Pepperoni Playboy, Potato Boy, Horse Hot Wee Wee Water, Sloopy Lau Lau, and Avocado Andrew. Macky, a little help please?

Another One (August 2015)

1.       The Way You’d Love Her

In the first seconds, it’s apparent that Another One has a different intonation than Salad Days and 2. Mature and less disorganized, The Way You’d Love Her doesn’t have the wistfulness or youth of Goodbye Weekendor Passing Out The Pieces. The strings are still floral, but the skill has increased (or it’s just displayed more). The solo at 1:45 is a shoulder-sliding jam. The lyrics are still simple and to-the-point, but they’re not as slurred in the demo. Overall, the demo is cleaner than previous ones and doesn’t feel like the dollhouse effect – it’s basically the finished track.
2.       Another One

Sad Macky singing about heartbreak – poor Pepperoni Playboy! The sad keyboard and simple beat make the listener feel simultaneously uninterested and invested – it’s no Someone Like You or Need You Now, but it’ll do. In Another (Demo) One #1,the bass is more pronounced and the song overall is deeper, sadder. The lower octaves are given playtime, which is the opposite of Another (Demo) One #2. The higher registers and vocals make Mac sound sad but recoverable, not depressed. The finished track combines these two pathos, although I prefer the more upbeat Demo #2.
3.       No Other Heart

Cheeky and sounding straight out of a seaside country album,No Other Heart is another love ballad. It’s breezy, it’s arrogant. It’s more Jimmy Buffet and less psychedelic Mac DeMarco. In another interview with NPR, DeMarco said “I feel like this one is kind of bop-y,” which is spot on. The demo features a stronger synthesizer in the background and the guitar is less tropical. There’s static and white noise around 1:30, which adds to the demo-esque authenticity. It feels like traditional, homeless-man Mac, while the demo is him putting on a button-down.
4.       Just to Put Me Down

Mac said himself this song is “repetitive,” but the variation in guitar riffs, especially towards the end, erases any repetitiveness and replaces it with grooves. The beginning of the extended chorus (Picking me up/Just to put me down) is plain, but the changing notes and musical frills increase down the minutes. Mac’s voice in the Just to Put Me Down demo is more nasally than usual, although the guitar sounds “harder.” Mac’s no longer at the beach – he’s sad Macky in his broom closet. Whereas in the final song, the repeating chorus was differentiated through the music, the demo lacks this guitar ingenuity. It’s the same riff, strummed again and again until the audience is asleep.
5.       A Heart Like Hers

At first listen, this track feels identical to Another One. Slow, dreamy, and forlorn about love, the pumping organ has all the sadness and none of the transcendence of Chamber of Reflection. Another grainy layer is added in A (Demo) Heart Like Hers. The guitars are louder and the synthesizer is less down-and-out. I wonder why all of Mac’s demos reach the listener through a funnel cloud, echoed and with a more direct connection to the soul. The final track is 4 minutes and the demo is 6:30 – instead of a normal instrumental part, Mac starts singing Another One, the beat so similar it doesn’t sound out of place. Why would he do this? I’m confused why Mac didn’t fuse the two songs together, but according to DeMarco, these songs form a story of sorts, love and heartbreak reading like a sad boi’s diary.
6.       I’ve Been Waiting For Her

The upbeat, pop lyrics are reflected in the quick drums – no death-like synthesizer or sad Macky in this song. He’s high at the beach, seeing some girl with rhythm and drooling for a fling. Although the longer lyrics were surprising, the beachy guitar solo at 2:19 was classic Mac. The demo was WAY OUT OF LEFT FIELD. The echo was still there, but the drums lost their psychedelia and became normal indie rock. Mac never has drums this insistent, this in-your-face, but they reflected the pop vibe perfectly. I felt like grooving, not getting wasted (which is the antithesis of Mack). The guitar solo in the demo came earlier, but again, it was all rock and no beach. In the NPR interview, Mac said “It's just fun loving, easy, no harsh feelings in this song,” which is typical of Mac, but I get the feeling that meaningless, easy listening isn’t his favorite.
7.       Without Me

“Will she love me again tomorrow
I don't know, don't think so”

Mac’s clothes must be sewn with nonchalance. A self-described “weird wishy-washy whole piece,” Without Me is the last track with lyrics on Another One. And it’s perfect - it sends the listener away feeling calm and comfortable with nothing in our control. Typical Mac DeMarco…. strange synthesizer    and all. The demo mirrors the finished track, albeit with less of a synthesizer emphasis; Mac also takes more liberty with his vocal range (higher pitch than usual at times).
8.       My House by the Water

Airplanes, synthesizer, and the lapping tongue of the waves precede the final words on Another One:

6802 Bayfield Ave, Arverne, New York
Stop on by, I'll make you a cup of coffee. See you later

~Casual, just like he’s best friends with every music streamer~

Mac called this “a little breather piece at the end,” although I disagree with his interpretation. Listening to Another One wasn’t hard; I didn’t need a breather. If anything, this instrumental gave more insight into offstage, ordinary Mac. There’s no demos for My House by the Water (how could there be?), but Another One, like Salad Days, has a host of demos that don’t correspond to a finished track. At Ron’s Bris, B^), Prem+Prickle, Reggie’s First Date, Rick’s New Haircut #1, Rick’s New Haircut #2, Zhe Doan #1, and Zhe Doan #2. Most of these demos don’t need lyrics or coherence; the backstory is in the title, and the listener can dream up the rest. I love formless interludes like these; they fill in the gaps between sanity and ingenuity and knit a warm blanket for thoughtlessness. Mac should produce an album of these “amoeba” demos, and I can confirm they’re prime writing music. Also, at least in the case of Another One, the beats in these instrumentals were WAY more complex, catchy, and interesting than in songs like No Other Heart or A Heart Like Hers. I think Mac might’ve confused some of the tracks in his beat maker…

*This Old Dog has scattered demos released on YouTube and Soundcloud, but an album of them hasn’t been released on Spotify.  Also, I’ve reached my sanity limit for writing about Mac DeMarco.
What a man, what a musician. Judging by the thoughts and hours spent on this Canadian singer, we’re as intimate as me and my bottle of Tanqueray. In all honesty, I felt my words to be redundant and colorless – after 2, I described his songs rather than analyze them. Mac’s music is better enjoyed than scrutinized, although he is a fascinating character to watch interviews of.  As for some “deeper truth” to his music, there isn’t one. He pens simple songs about complex emotions – and that’s it. His effectiveness lies in simplicity and relatability, and to write down or discount the power of My Kind of Womanor Chamber of Reflection is a crime.
M.K.P.
CURRYWURDS - 2018