On record, Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco presents his songs with spare arrangements of chiming guitars and gentle drumming. He shades polished Jonathan Richman-style pop with subtle flushes of glam-rock swagger (serving as a reminder, perhaps, that young Morrissey once was president of a New York Dolls fan club). But on stage, he pairs his reserved songcraft with incongruously rowdy and raunchy performances. DeMarco addressed the juxtaposition in an interview with the Canadian magazine Exclaim: "If we're getting all loose and goofy, the crowd usually lightens up and starts having a funkier time. In the studio, I just sit around in my stinky underwear in my living room for a couple weeks. I guess the difference is the clothing." He's a dinner-jacket crooner with a shock-rocker's impulses.
The shtick suits DeMarco, whose songs—polite as they seem—don't shy from the often ugly truth. He makes romantic odes to drug-dealing dads, nicotine habits and unrequited loves. The support acts offer sonic complements to DeMarco's split personality: Labelmates Naomi Punk offer a fresh angle on primitive psych-punk, while Calvin Love plays indie pop shaded by new wave and lo-fi. —Bryan C. Reed