Thanks to Mac DeMarco, his disheveled friends can happily explore the many A-sides and B-sides of ’70s AM rock tunes in a puff of hazy smoke. And due to Mac’s own success, we’ve once again grown accustomed to unabashedly saccharine love songs, slick chorus guitar effects, and a laid-back vibe (“slacker-rock,” which I guess is defined by someone remarkably un-anxious who holds a guitar) in contemporary songwriting, despite working hard to write prolifically. And his entourage of touring musicians brings us the solo projects of Alex Calder, Connan Mockasin, Homeshake, and, more recently, Alexander Brettin.
Brettin hails from Chicago, actually, where he played flute in school and ended up majoring in jazz studies. He moved to LA where he bumped into folks from Stones Throw Records, working with Ariel Pink who became his mentor, and touring with Mac DeMarco.
He released his debut record last year entitled Timeline under the moniker Mild High Club. Like DeMarco, he channels plenty of plastic-keyed synthesizers à la Todd Rundgren and ’70s-influenced guitar riffs. But what makes him so different from Mac and his contemporaries is his jazz background. It chimes in especially on his most recent record Skiptracing, which he released last month. Many of his chord progressions are chromatic, his guitar lines angular, and his singing mellow.
He pays attention to the subtle details: he strums the nylon strings of a classical guitar delicately, he pans the electric guitar fuzzes from the left speaker to the right, and he builds layers of warm, Casiotone keyboard chords.
Mild High Club sounds like Steely Dan hanging out with Bill Withers or Washington Grover Jr., and this includes the occasional saxophone. It’s jazzy but it’s not jam music. The psychedelic space he builds is, in fact, a mild high club.
The songs sound cheesy — they’re almost kitschy with plinky guitar lines and twinkly synths — but they’re damn fun. Mac DeMarco’s former touring bandmates are, evidently, more than the sum of their thrift shop button-ups, DIY jean shorts, and bushy mustaches.