Sometimes the things you love the most are those you can’t stand at first, and that goes for songs, too. “Chamber of Reflection” from Mac Demarco’s (recently Polaris Music Prize shortlisted album) Salad Days was a perfect example of that for me. When I first heard it, I couldn’t handle the synth line. It was jarring. It didn’t mesh with the dreamy ambience of the rest of the track – or with most of the album, for that matter. Something about it drove me nuts… but I loved the album as a whole, so I ended up listening to it over and over. And somewhere along the line… it clicked.
Maybe it was seeing him play it live at Yonge-Dundas Square during NXNE. A hot, tired, crowd swaying under a humid sunset… the thick, heavy drums and Mac’s chronically chilled-out voice were cut through by that synth riff. It sliced the haziness and brought you back to life just enough. The whole combination created a wavy intoxication. We were half aware, half just feeling the music (as “stoner-y” as that may sound).
On the massively introspective Salad Days, “Chamber of Reflection” is perhaps the MOST self-reflective song (hence the name). At its most basic, it’s about being alone. Those moments of your day when you find yourself in your room alone with your thoughts. With yourself, and only yourself. Being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the way he sings about spending “some time away” almost makes it sound like a vacation from the rest of the world – but those quiet, solo moments are when the insecurities can creep in. When you can truly hear your own thoughts. In a world where we are constantly connected, real solitude is a rarity. There are no distractions… and that can be terrifying.
This lyric sums it up best:
No use looking out
It’s within that brings that
In that introspective place, that’s when you can take ownership for your own thoughts and feelings. Being alone does not equal feeling lonely. When you experience loneliness, it’s something coming from inside you – it’s your own issues, problems, feelings, thoughts, boredom, even. Your loneliness isn’t the fault of someone else and when you’re truly alone, you can’t shift that blame. It’s when you can finally be okay with being alone that you can actually REFLECT. Fix those problems. Become better.
Maybe that’s why hearing it at Toronto’s central square, surrounded by hundreds of people, finally made this song make sense. We were all together, and yet, while experiencing a song like this, letting it wash over us and through us, taking our own meaning from it, we were each alone in ourselves. Listen as Mac repeats “alone again” as the chorus, while that synth line rolls on and on, almost hypnotic. And somehow, when you hear it, over and over, it might make you feel less lonely.
This track reminded me of another song that I had totally forgotten about. It’s from Ben Fold’s experimental project, Fear Of Pop. Back in 1998 they released an album called Volume 1 featuring a song called “In Love” with vocals from William Shatner. There’s something in the background vocals, the dreaminess of the string line, a slow sway, that lines up with Mac’s tune.