by Oscar Ross, Music Editor
Legendary Canadian Ice Hockey player Wayne Gretzky’s nickname was ‘the great one’. Gretzky played for the Edmonton Oilers, DeMarco’s hometown in Canada. So this is Demarco’s One Great One. Now if you ask me, that’s an ominous title.
Clocking in at a whopping 8 hours and 43 minutes, with a total of 199 ‘songs’ One Wayne G is indie and stoner rock legend Mac Demarco’s latest, and potentially final offering. I listened to the project all the way through, in order (obviously). That is a total of 9 hours (including coffee breaks), and this article takes around 15 minutes to read, so I would say it is a pretty monumental timesaver for all you music nerds out there. Alternatively, you can skip to the end of this article and use my neatly curated playlists to listen to the best bits of this gigantic project (you can thank me later).
DeMarco has announced tour dates and vinyl releases, but I’m not fussed about all that. I want to know if you can actually listen to this behemoth of a project and not go insane. I also want to know what this project can tell us about DeMarco as a musician, as well as how it reflects musicianship and the way music writing can be like journaling.
This article is written quite weirdly. In a similar layout to the project itself, this is a collection of my thoughts on the album as I listen to it. This means that I may sound more hopeful of the album in certain places rather than others. It also means that the past, present and future tenses are used fairly liberally, resulting in what is, was and will be, quite a weird piece of writing.
Another factor to consider is that One Wayne G isn’t really an album so can’t I judge it that way is. This is more the soundtrack to 5 years of Mac Demarco’s career, showing how his work has changed over the years, as well as how he writes and constructs his music.
The project spans from 2018 to 2023 and the tracks are written in 4 digits. While I have seen plenty of speculation that these numbers are all dates, I don’t think this is correct. These are file names, and while they would have been dated by year, they may have been made over a series of days and gone back to. What this means is that One Wayne G is a selection of tracks out of thousands of Demarco’s files. No extra work, no marketing or mastering, this guy just dropped his hard drive’s best bits on Spotify and tipped his hat to his fans. Pretty brave if you ask me.
‘But Oscar, if it wasn’t Mac DeMarco, you wouldn’t like it’
First off, it is Mac Demarco, so I guess we’ll never know if that’s true.
Secondly, the pure mass of work is impressive for any artist. Through One Wayne G DeMarco is being incredibly open about his process and just because the tracks aren’t finished, why does that mean they don’t deserve to get heard? Most musicians will never let perfectly good songs see the light of day because of their ego, an affliction that has obviously missed DeMarco. Just because you haven't been handed a polished, marketable project doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time.
The songs are weird, but also wonderful, some more finished than others, and sometimes songs just end. I’ll tell you something, it can get boring, and I wrote this paragraph at 12:35 today. I had just had my first coffee, and still had the glint of hope in my eye. I currently don’t know whether the album is going to be a genius or a waste of my entire day, but I thought I might as well check, so you don’t have to sift through it for a week. I know, not all heroes wear capes.
Image: DeMarco in 2018 by Coley Brown
Written after DeMarco’s beautifully upsetting album This Old Dog, 2018 is the shortest set of songs on One Wayne G other than 2023, situated at the other end of the continent that is this album. I started losing focus around 20181002, with the track quality throwing me all the way back to my early teens, but I pressed on, knowing what I had to do. 20181212, or ‘twelvy’ as I have called it (It was at this point that I realised the only way to differentiate the songs and get through my task is by nicknaming them) scared the living daylights out of me. More and more background noise gets used in the tracks, panning all around you until you're unsure as to what is in the track, and what is your environment. Also, if you're looking for where to start on your listening of this ridiculous project, the first sound of DeMarco’s voice comes in 7 songs in ‘20180913’.
To be honest, I was too green at this point in listening to make any kind of real judgement on One Wayne G, so we will move on to 2019.
Image: DeMarco performing live in 2019 - credit Getty
From what I can tell, 2019 seems like a dark year for our boy Mac. ‘20190205 2’ made me start laughing, pitying the next seven hours of my day, if they too would have to suffer this kind of stuff for the rest of the day, but I kept listening. As I have emphasised but will emphasise again, I can’t review this the same as an actual album, because it isn’t. This is a collection of different musical trains of thought, unfinished and not prepared for public listening. Critiquing this project like an album would be like heckling a 12-year-old at his piano recital and going ‘You’re not very good, are you?’. This of course a fictional heckling that definitely never happened to me or my older brother Theo.
For any avid music nerds out there, this project does contain the song Mac DeMarco played in an interview and called ‘Garbage, but fun to make’: this track is of course, ‘20190724’ or as I have dubbed it ‘Fun Garbage’. While I’m not trying to say this entire project is ‘garbage’, I would say the second half of Mac's statement is the more important thing here. These aren’t songs Demarco thought, ‘Oh this is going to be a hit’, the guy just loves music, and makes it because he can and because he likes doing it, it’s just an extra that he’s good at it. The tracks range from groovy to moody, to familiar. They're often quite emotional, and I think in many ways the project is far more untethered and exposing in its musical expression than releasing a polished album. Demarco can say a lot through these musical daydreams. Or maybe he can’t, I’m writing this section at 20-190728, and I’m pretty sure the Stockholm syndrome has kicked in.
The second half of 2019 seems to shift. We get more of Demarco’s voice and tracks that feel like live sessions, but as far as I know, these are Demarco creating a sense of live jamming when it is himself double tracking and playing every instrument. So he’s talking to himself. These tracks are not for Demarco’s audience. There for him, and it feels quite odd listening to the man’s hard drive. It's almost like if one of your favourite artists let you read their ideas book as if your favourite writer let you read their journal,
I kept listening as I walked to the library, and while I climbed the stairs to the oversize books section, I realised that this particular track had been going on for a while. I checked my phone and as it turned out, I was halfway through a 22-minute track, which under closer listening, was a microscopically shifting soundscape that was essentially Minecraft music. It was quite relaxing, but this track did nearly kill me. The thing is, the tracks are listenable, I wasn’t dying to turn them off and say, ‘I can’t listen anymore’, but they are strange. They weren’t amazing or terrible, they just were. It made them quite human really.
Finally, at the 2-hour mark, I had an actual song. ‘No Doubt About It’ is a lazy afternoon of Bossa Nova, carrying Demarco’s textbook romantic, personal lyrics. Then to my amazement, another song. Having suffered 22 minutes of Minecraft music and 2 hours of beats, I felt like I was finally getting somewhere with the low and slow country tune ‘You Made the Bed’, which explores DeMarco’s entire range, again providing plenty of melancholy and relaxation. Then I had ‘Fooled by Love’, a well-written, lamenting love song.
The critic in me was screaming things about unfinished songs and professionalism, but these songs seemed to softly sing him to sleep, or perhaps they were smothering him with a pillow. We’ll see, this was written at the 2-hour mark, so who knows what lies ahead? After this, I was right back to 2019’s weird, jazzy, Wii music beats with ‘2019202’.
Here’s the rest of what you need to know about 2019:
⁃ In 20190730, the sound of DeMarco’s voice is back, nice after a long while of tinkling synths and guitar. Nicknamed this one ‘Weepa Mama’.
⁃ At this point, I can’t decide if Demarco is Yoko Ono or John Lennon. Maybe he’s like both? Can you be like both?
⁃ 20191219, is enjoyable instrumental music which I have nicknamed ’sweet 19’.
⁃ 20191227 I nicknamed ‘Mwah’ and I started to think, how much of this is actually going to be good?
⁃ 20191229, ‘starlight’ is like being dunked into a lake. It's disorienting after a lot of happy-go-lucky beats. It makes you think about the difference in Demarco’s headspace between these tracks. This pensive, thoughtful soundtrack is completely different to those around it.
image: Demarco live in early 2020 by Philip Cosores
In 2020 Demarco starts to use his samples more, using them to create a space for the song. While this is cool, at one point it scared the sh*t out of me as I thought someone was walking toward me while I was sitting at the library. That being said, 2020 was still a slow start, but in my third hour, I let the music play and tried to get some work done. Turns out DeMarco’s 2020 instrumentals make for good brain music. Eight-hour revision session? Long flight? This project may still have a use yet.
My fourth hour was going well, with beautiful synth-scapes such as 20200228 (highly recommend this one), but then you have 20200808, or as I have called it ‘Younger sibling’ because it's annoying, designed to irritate you, but you listen to it anyway, followed by more water samples, seemingly an obsession for DeMarco at some point in 2020.
⁃ With the second set of songs in 202, I finally felt some hope for the project. Now I never thought a song about sandwiches could be one of my most listened-to songs of the week, but apparently, it can, and is in ‘She Want the Sandwich’. But then again, it could be my potential case of Stockholm Syndrome, because next to ‘younger sibling’ this is heaven. Next up we have ‘Proud True Toyota’, which is a real breath of fresh air, proper energy, and a hook! I couldn’t believe it, real songs, real lyrics, I was in heaven. The set of songs came to a close and I returned to regularly scheduled programming of beats and mind-destroying soundscapes.
Here's a rundown of what you need to know from 2020:
⁃ ‘Turn My TV On’ is an absolutely great, classic Demarco.
⁃ ‘Inside the Beaver’s Dam’ is funny and almost poignant, don’t skip it.
⁃ I took a short break at the halfway mark because my Air Pods just couldn’t take it anymore.
⁃ ‘Big Jane’ or '20201126' is the closest thing you’ll ever hear to being in the room with Demarco as he tries to write a song, well actually several songs: he switches to Bossa Nova at the one-minute mark following a slow ballad-sounding dong, shifting again 40 seconds later. For a long album, a lot of action happens in this one song.
⁃ All of a sudden, I was hit with a clear, beautiful full song with '20201126 2' , which I have nicknamed ‘Ho’. The weird syllables used show off DeMarco's skill as a songwriter, as you hear how he uses vowel sounds and phrase structure to an incredible effect even before he has lyrics. In an industry swamped by what your music means or represents, Demarco’s music here represents how music is made on a personal level.
⁃ - ‘20201203’ or ‘Too Late for You’ is another shock to the system, where previous songs brought new energy and speed to the monotony of the beats, this song hits you with a gust of dozy, saddening wind. This is a Mac Demarco song, softly spoken, sparse phrases sung with measured passion and emotion. This one hurt I can’t lie.
Image: DeMarco photographed by Kiera Mcnally
The 2021 set of songs, while earlier islands of lyricism were welcomed with open arms during my listening, these 2021 tracks start slow, with Demarco losing a bit of his fire, perhaps he caught a cold? I hear there was a nasty bug going around in these couple of years, so this may have affected some of his music. DeMarco leads with ‘Ball for the Coach’ which seems to be a commentary on capitalism and identity but done very strangely. This is followed by ‘China’, a pacing, Wizard of Oz-like track in which DeMarco calls out to China to build him a new heart, watch him where he goes, promising to behave. I’m not sure if this is political or if Demarco is just a nutter, but it’s still a nice track.
Softly strummed guitar welcomed in the lyrics ‘sweetheart no’ and ‘I’m the Father of the Year’, and I couldn’t really cope. The silence between DeMarco’s voice and his guitar has real emotional power, especially for those with any kind of father problems and for some reason tried to listen to nearly 9 hours of one artist’s music. Could imagine that this would be a pretty upsetting song for those losers…
Weirdly, I welcomed the release of 20210301, the simplicity, head-bopping, and lack of thought-provoking lyrics in place of tinkling guitar riffs were very soothing (I would later regret writing this sentence).
It was around this point that I came to an important realisation that the tracks aren’t loops, the percussion and riffs change slightly as DeMarco records, but they’re also not songs. The phraseology is there in DeMarco's little licks and lags on drums and guitar, and if you listen hard enough, you may start to hear how his sound changes over the course of the album. Or if you listen long enough you will go insane and write stuff like this.
All that being said parts of the album such as 2021606, do sound like what I imagine Mac DeMarco sounds like to your average drill fan. Your everyday drum and bass head or heavy metal appreciator would probably tell you that DeMarco’s music all sounds like 2021606, or as I have endearingly named it ‘SOS, make it stop’. Of course, these critics would be wrong, as they, unlike myself, haven’t sat down and done their homework.
All his music doesn’t sound the same, it just sounds aggressively similar when you listen to 8 hours of it. Alternatively, there is the argument that DeMarco’s music sounds similar because he plays everything himself, and his songwriting style requires a massive input of content, as we can see here, to create finished albums, which One Wayne G is the complete opposite of. Then again, say whatever you like about his music, let’s be honest, I’m too far gone now to be impartial.
Here's a quick rundown of what else you need to know about 2021:
⁃ In ‘2021616’ you can hear the steely Dan fan in Demarco come out to play, this one is groovy as hell.
⁃ ‘2021129’ he is losing his mind and trying to take mine down with it. I said out loud “What the f*ck is this” genuinely not being able to clock if I wanted to destroy this album or buy the six-disk vinyl.
⁃ ‘2021129 2’, the sequel, returns you to groovy beats, not anything mind-blowing but as I have said before, also not bad.
Image: DeMarco photographed by Yuki Kikuchi
2022 starts a lot stronger than the previous years. It seems like DeMarco may have got out more. Strolls in the park, seeing other human beings, that kind of stuff. This is around the time DeMarco was touring Northern America and Canada recording his instrumental album Five Easy Hotdog’ released earlier this year. Demarco’s tracks seem more relaxed, while also being more fleshed out, most likely because of the lack of pressure to write melodies and lyrics.
Here’s what you need to know about 2022:
- Almost like a cosmic joke, ‘20220422’ made me regret ever saying this project was worth it. The album is cursed. I will never recover.
⁃ ‘20220507’ sees Demarco getting very cocky on drums, if anyone learns this entire drum track, I will pay them good money.
⁃ ‘20220609’ which I’ve nicknamed “Dentist/Construction sounds”, really made me wish I hadn’t tried to listen to this godforsaken project and if I could go back in time, maybe I would have stopped myself from committing such a massive mistake. We shall see.
⁃ At some point during 2022, I would bet someone gave DeMarco a harmonica and bird whistle as a present, resulting in him making more and more, as he puts it so eloquently “cowboy shit”. I would like to find the person who bought him these instruments, so I can beat them with a stick and yell ‘why’ over and over.
⁃ After the poignant love song ‘The Truth’, I looked ahead to see nothing but a wasteland of beats until the end of this massive album in 2023, I continued on, nevertheless.
⁃ For most of 2022, it seems Max Demarco thought it would be funny to just record bird sounds with a flute over fairly groovy beats. It is not. I mean they’re okay, but at this point, I can barely remember what other types of music sound like so how would I know? All that being said, it kind of slaps.
⁃ ‘20221129’ ‘I call shoes off’. I like this one and refuse to explain why. Give it a listen and make your judgement.
Image credit: Eve Jennings
In the final stretch, I can see the finishing line, the 8 hours 43 min length now looking me dead in the eye. Weirdly 2023 sees a return back to the more 2018-sounding beat structure with a more polished sound, which begs the question, why bother listening to everything in between? This would have been a good question to ask myself before starting this ridiculously long project, but we’re here now. Now I can’t explain it but ‘20230109’, the penultimate song, really got me down. I don’t know why, but it felt like a kind of goodbye from Demarco, in fact, the whole of the 2023 section of the album felt like he was slowly walking away from the listener.
The ghostlike synths of the 198th song faded away, and the last song, with harp-like-guitar, seaside background sounds and dosing synths happily paced its way to the end of the project. This is the 114th song DeMarco made this year alone. People asked me why I bothered listening to 199 songs by the same artist. My answer is that the artist in question has shown that they have written, or at least half-written, thousands of tracks over the course of their career. Out of those thousands, around 13 a year were put into full-length, pretty amazing albums. This isn’t including released demos, of which there are around 50-70 songs or so. Now, having written and released all these tracks, the artists decides that they want to release everything else they could have ever released, like the ghost of their career, an unfinished, alternative future in which these songs were on the albums. The artist chose 199 tracks out of thousands that they thought could have been songs. What was I going to do, not listen to the entire thing?
Thankfully, you, my dear reader, do not have to listen to the whole thing. This exercise in my own sanity has in fact had a purpose. As you have seen throughout this article, I have narrowed down each year into its best moments. However, if you need a more all-encompassing selection of tracks, I have also curated a ‘Listenable edition’ of the album, which can be found below. If your taste lies beyond DeMarco’s instrumentals, I have also compiled ‘Just the Songs’, which gives you a neatly ordered selection of songs, as if this were some normal album, listened to by normal people.
However, if you want to push the boat out and have a glimpse into the abyss of DeMarco’s oceans of instrumental music, I have also created the ‘Just the Beats’ playlist, for my more hardcore readers, who like me, have far too much time on their hands and use it very poorly.
Just the Songs:
Just the Beats:
The Whole Damn Album:
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