Column | ‘One Wayne G’: Mac DeMarco’s 199 beats to relax/study to


Courtesy of Genius

Cover of “One Wayne G” by Mac Demarco

By Alexis Ramirez, Staff Writer

Canadian indie musician Mac DeMarco doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has recorded his music in his bedroom, in his home studio and on the road. Still, his sound is mellow and minimalistic. That’s his brand: DIY, lo-fi and laid-back.

“One Wayne G” — a nearly nine-hour eclectic compilation album featuring 199 mostly instrumental tracks recorded over the course of five years — is on brand for DeMarco.

He released the project without prior announcement on April 21, three months after the release of his latest studio album, “Five Easy Hot Dogs.”

DeMarco has released seven demo albums featuring raw cuts and outtakes from five of his studio albums and mini-LPs, but “One Wayne G” is the first that appears to span multiple projects.

The record is organized in chronological order with each track title including the date of the recording in the YYYYMMDD format. Only 18 of the tracks have full titles and lyrics.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

The project’s title and total number of tracks appears to be a reference to retired Canadian ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky. Following the album’s release, Mac’s Record Label — DeMarco’s self-titled record label — posted two photos of Gretzky to its Instagram story.

Nicknamed “the Great One,” Gretzky is widely regarded by sports journalists, hockey players and the National Hockey League as one of the greatest hockey players of all time. He led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cup victories: 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988.

At the time of his retirement, Gretzky held or shared 61 official NHL records — now, he still holds 58. Gretsky was promptly inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the NHL retired his jersey number 99 league-wide.

DeMarco was born in Duncan, British Columbia and lived in Edmonton, Alberta from 1990 to 2008.

“He was the greatest of all time,” DeMarco said about Gretzsky in a 2021 interview with Harlem-born multi-hyphenate Kerwin Frost

“He played on the team that I — the city that I grew up in, he was on the team,” DeMarco said. “Left the team, went and played in the States a whole bunch. People never gave him up where I grew up. Statues, all this other stuff.”

After “20191009 I Like Her,” “20190724” is the second most streamed track on “One Wayne G.” It’s been used as the background music for many viral TikTok videos about the album.

The track, along with “20190724 2,” was casually previewed in a 2019 PBS NewsHour Weekend segment.

“I like this,” DeMarco told Christopher Booker as they listened to the track. “Yeah! Just garbage, but fun to make.” 

“20190724” has been referred to by fans as “Garbage Funk” and its release has been highly anticipated.

* * *

Following the surprise release of “One Wayne G,” there were a number of different estimates for the project’s runtime floating around the internet, often ranging from “around nine hours” to “over 9 hours.” Spotify’s desktop and web apps still approximate the runtime at “about 9 hr 30 min,” but the mobile app and other streaming services calculate it more definitely.

Spotify’s metadata for “One Wayne G” reveals the precise runtime to be 31,393,062 milliseconds, or 8 hours, 43 minutes, 13 seconds and 62 milliseconds.

Although the album is shorter than some more liberal approximations, it is still a daunting amount of music. DeMarco’s demo compilation is a challenge for purists who insist on listening to albums in one uninterrupted sitting for the first time.

The slew of instrumental, untitled tracks on “One Wayne G” is inevitably monotonous at different points throughout the record, but there’s a surprising amount of stylistic variety. The album represents genres including bedroom pop, soft rock, funk, folk, bossa nova, ambient and experimental.

It’s no surprise that Japanese ambient and new age sounds found their way into DeMarco’s experimentation, perhaps most recognizably on “20190205 2” and “20190826.”

DeMarco cited Haruomi Hosono as his favorite artist in a 2017 interview with the German-language digital music magazine DIFFUS.

Haruomi Hosono, the grandson of Titanic survivor Masabumi Hosono, is considered to be one of the most influential Japanese pop musicians. His expansive solo and collaborative discography covers a diverse range of styles.

Hosono achieved international recognition with the bands Happy End and Yellow Magic Orchestra — formed with Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto in 1978.

DeMarco released a cover of Hosono’s 1975 song “Honey Moon” in 2018 and Light in the Attic Records pressed a 7-inch vinyl featuring both versions the following year. DeMarco later performed the song live with Hosono at The Mayan Theatre in Los Angeles during Hosono’s 2019 U.S. tour.

Light in the Attic released the archival collection “Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990” in 2019, featuring tracks from Hosono and Sakamoto, as well as their contemporaries Hiroshi Yoshimura — a pioneer of ambient music in Japan — and Yasuaki Shimizu.

“20190205 2” is a barebones ambient track defined by the sound of harsh, sporadic drums against a backdrop of wood chimes. The acerbity and minimalism of the track are reminiscent of Haruomi Hosono’s “Growth” from “Hana ni Mizu” (Watering a Flower), the album he wrote for Japanese retailer MUJI.

The airy synths on “20190826” are a defining feature of space music, a subgenre of ambient and new age music, and produce a sound similar to Yoshimura’s “SLEEP.” The bass drums that punctuate the track are as prominent as those on Shimizu’s 1982 album “Kakashi.”

On the standout ambient tracks — “20190127,” “20191229,” “20200229 2,” and “20200811”— DeMarco finds himself farthest from the sound his fans know him for, but not farthest from home. None of these tracks are as refined or masterful as those of the Japanese greats, but it’s clear that DeMarco has a level of familiarity with this experimental sound.

DeMarco’s yawning and groggy vocals on “20180927” are one of the most interesting experimental moments early in the album. The simple, clean and bright electronic instrumentation stands in contrast to the grainy, lo-fi sound of a recorded phone call and bassy twang of DeMarco’s voice.

There’s an element of humor to most of the more memorable lyrical tracks on “One Wayne G.” There’s a woman who wants the sandwich, a Toyota truck with 100,000 miles on the odometer, a dusty old pair of cowboy boots, and a lazy beaver with a wife, child and a bowling trophy in his dam.

But “One Wayne G” isn’t meant to be examined track by track.

“(The album art is) a self-portrait. And that’s essentially what ‘One Wayne G’ is, you know, five years of me,” DeMarco told the Associated Press in an interview published last week.

There’s more value in the concept behind the project as a whole than any individual track. It’s not Duchamp’s “Fountain,” but if it makes people upset that DeMarco released a nearly nine hour collection of throwaway recordings as an album, then he’s successfully subverted expectations.

“If I’m going to write something, I need to move forward,” DeMarco said. “I like this stuff. I’d like to share it. I don’t really know how. I might as well just give it all at the same time.”

“One Wayne G” isn’t likely to find a place in your daily music rotation, but it’s great background music for studying, working, relaxing or walking.

[email protected]