At first blush, Mac DeMarco’s second album, released in 2012, is almost comically unassuming. For starters, it’s called 2, which is the album-naming equivalent of referring to a pet as “Cat” or “Dog.” Then there’s the cover, which features a black-and-white snapshot of DeMarco, six-stringer close to his chest, flashing a toothy grin and a peace sign in a manner that brings to mind Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s chilled-out surfer-dude, Jeff Spicoli. And as for the music itself? Well, there are at least two songs about smoking cigarettes, while another one is simply called “Dreaming”—which, true to its title, sounds like someone lazily looking out the window during a hot summer day. (For what it’s worth, DeMarco has since claimed that most of the record was made while he was in just his underwear.) Of course, all of this plays into the deceptive brilliance of DeMarco’s entire deal: He looks and feels like just some guy—your good friend at the bar, maybe, or the lovable class clown from your childhood. And he’s content to let your assumptions take hold as he casually unspools warm, warped guitar baubles that possess a simple and deeply affecting tenderness—not unlike Paul McCartney’s solo work, or the reveries of indie-pop greats Felt. Released the same year as Rock and Roll Night Club—DeMarco’s shaggy, after-hours debut—2 was an undeniable breakout moment for the Vancouver singer-songwriter, who would go on to become one of the 2010s’ biggest indie-rock stars. The album’s 11 songs possess a charming timelessness to them, like floating down a lazy river in a big inner tube. The lovely and romantic “My Kind of Woman” is the closest we’ll likely get to a modern indie-music standard, while the peppy beat and tangled guitars of “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” represents 2’s most explicitly rock moment, as DeMarco offers a lyrical apologia to his assuredly weary mother: “I know it's no fun/When your first son/Gets up to no good.” Such a sentiment is key to understanding DeMarco’s appeal—and it sums up the essence of 2 as a whole: His goofball side may be endearing and immediately apparent, but the more he hangs around, the radiance of his sincerity grows brighter.

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