10 Must-Hear Highlights from Mac DeMarco's 199-Song 'One Wayne G'
A beginner's guide to this data dump of a demos album
Published Apr 26, 2023Earlier this year, Mac DeMarco expressed his disenchantment with the state of the music industry, telling Exclaim!, "How indie rock looks nowadays? It's ridiculous! Everybody's just trying to squeeze a buck out of something." His recent album Five Easy Hot Dogs was the first step away from the old indie rock model, its sweet and simple instrumental sketches the work of someone operating at his own pace and clearly uninterested in catering to audience expectations.
If Five Easy Hot Dogs was uncompromising, the subsequent One Wayne G is downright alienating. It's not an album as much as a hard drive purge: a 199-track data dump, the vast majority of it instrumental, and nearly all of it with a calming vibe that's thoroughly pleasant but also easy to ignore. It's the ultimate "chill beats to study/relax to" playlist — the kind of thing to turn on when you leave for work in the morning, then have it play in the background for the entire day, and finish around the time you get home.
It's best appreciated in large doses — an insular world to get lost inside of, its various sounds and styles all united by the same peaceful mood. Even though many of the musical ideas are half-formed, DeMarco is an impeccable instrumentalist. Across 199 tracks — a number seemingly chosen because it's Wayne Gretzky's jersey number with a one in front of it — I'd be hard-placed to point to even one bum note or out-of-pocket rhythm. The man has groove.
Listening to it chronologically also emphasizes its dual role as an audio diary. Listeners can hear DeMarco cycle through various phases and instrumental setups: there's the moment he gets into field recordings of running water, the week he uses a recorder as a lead instrument, various times when he writes more traditional songs with lyrics, and a few weeks he prefers jazzy scatting.
Understandably, however, casual Mac fans might not want to sit down with nearly nine hours of new material. For the DeMarcurious, we've compiled 10 highlights to get you started. This isn't necessarily a definitive list of the 10 best songs here — more a sampler of highlights, showing the scope of One Wayne G and pointing to the best examples of some of its styles.
On this lovely keyboard sketch, DeMarco layers peaceful piano, bass and arpeggios — but it's the entrance of a daydream synth that really sends this into the realm of pure, serene bliss.
In 2019, DeMarco teased a hyperactively funky new song in an interview with PBS NewsHour, playing a brief snippet and joking that it was "just garbage, but fun to make." It has since been referred to by DeMarco fans as "Garbage Funk" — and now the full 70-second version has gotten a proper release. Just garbage, but fun to listen to.
One Wayne G includes a handful of gorgeous ambient songs, notably including the 22-minute "20190826" — but I'm partial to the six-minute "20191229," a serene expanse of Blade Runner synths, tinkling piano and distantly chattering field recordings. All of One Wayne G is an ambient experience, so it's nice to hear him really lean into that vibe here.
One Wayne G is largely a solo affair, but virtuosic jazz duo DOMi and JD Beck make a cameo on this short instrumental sketch. DOMi's nimble low-end keyboards are warm and inviting, but it's JD Beck's dizzying, rapid-fire syncopations that make this stand out from all the other short instrumental numbers on the collection.
"20200817 Proud True Toyota"
Of all 199 songs on One Wayne G, "Proud True Toyota" is the one that sounds the most like a classic DeMarco song — the kind that might have appeared on one of his past albums (think "One Another" or "A Wolf Who Wears Sheeps Clothes"). It's a simple tribute to a car, full of satisfying pop melodies and cute details about "New wheels, waterproof seals at the wash and blow." If DeMarco were to release a single from One Wayne G, this would be it.
If there's one half-formed instrumental idea on One Wayne G that I'd love to hear DeMarco expand on, it's this 70-second snippet — a haunting, reverent meditation driven by the songwriter's droning acoustic strums and moaning, wordless harmonies.
"20210215 Ball for the Coach"
This amiable pop ditty is quintessential DeMarco — although he gets uncharacteristically venomous in the chorus hook, singing about a "filthy fucking cockroach." At just two minutes in length, the clever chord changes make this one sound fully formed just as it is.
A number of tracks on One Wayne G feature recorders — y'know, those whistles you used to play in elementary school music class — and the best example is "Scarecrow." The tenderly harmonized recorders are the perfect complement to this gentle acoustic ballad. If you like this one, also check out the song from the very next day, "20210218 Round Here," for another nice acoustic ditty with harmonized recorders.
"20221102 The Truth"
This is the best song on One Wayne G — a starkly minimal, heartbroken acoustic ballad, with a bloopy, monophonic synth providing the instrumental hook between DeMarco's gently crooned verses about being haunted by past regrets. It's as devastating and stripped-down as anything in his catalogue.
The very last song of the entire project strongly resembles the mellow material on Five Easy Hot Dogs. It's also one of the most fully formed instrumentals of the bunch, with its pitter-pattering groove breaking down into a haunting triplet feel.