Music Review: ‘Exactly Where I Am’ by Marc With a C

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Marc with a C's latest album, Exactly Where I Am
Marc with a C’s latest album, Exactly Where I Am

I want to preface this review of Marc with a C‘s latest album, Exactly Where I Am, with the fact that I have been a personal friend of Marc’s since 2008. I’ve had a holiday dinner with his family, and he was one of the groomsmen at my wedding.

It’s important to juxtapose Exactly Where I Am with Marc with a C’s previous full-length album, Popular Music. With the latter, he ran an exhaustive fan poll on what they’d like to hear from him, asking his fans questions concerning how an “entertainer” and “recording artist” like him could better serve them. Based off of his analysis of that data, he formulated the structure of the album. He then ran a successful crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo to finance the album. The theme behind Popular Music was completely extrinsic. The content and financing was all completely sourced by fans, showcasing the positive power of the internet.

Exactly Where I Am is the absolute inverse of this. After a cryptic campaign consisting of photos of Marc standing in poorly lit areas enquiring “Where am I?,” Marc opened up the opportunity to purchase a vinyl copy of the album two weeks before it was officially released. No ability to listen to the album online. No external influences or funding. Marc just asked his listeners to have full faith if they wanted a vinyl copy of his latest album.

I ordered a copy immediately.

One of the many photos from Marc with a C's "Where Am I?" campaign. There were all as equally mysterious.
One of the many photos from Marc with a C’s “Where Am I?” campaign. There were all as equally mysterious.

I was not disappointed! Exactly Where I Am is a strong album that resonates with Marc’s low-fidelity pop sensibility. Marc doesn’t try to obfuscate the theme of the album, throwing it in the Bandcamp’s description: “The intersection between yesterday’s small-town secrets and today’s information overload.” That comes across heavily in most of the tracks without leaving the listener feeling spoon-fed.

Exactly Where I Am is also a truly introspective album. More than a few times it feels like the listener is invited to peer into Marc’s naked thoughts. In the past, Marc has made it clear he feels that vinyl is the best way to listen to music, and on this album it feels like he’s made an effort to experiment with that medium. Side B is one continuous track accompanied by the sound of rain. This “Bootwater Suite,” with multiple parts separated into individual songs, almost feels as if Marc has finally been given the opportunity to return to “how music was meant to be released.”

As well as getting the vinyl the same week I ordered it, I received an exclusive DVD that was only available for those that pre-ordered. It was just as cryptically labeled–simply “why.” The video contained seemed to be nothing more than a series of jump cuts revealing an incredibly candid look into Marc’s life as an independent musician: practicing with his two bands, Claire and the Potatoes and Marc with a C and The Expansion Pack; on the phone with a vinyl distributor; various performances; production sessions with his long-time friend Chris Zabriskie; recording his podcast; and so on. It slowly developed a narrative that included a brief history of Marc’s album Bubblegum Romance as well as the origins (and end) of Claire of the Potatoes. As an amateur nerd music historian, I was enthralled by it and surprised with how limited a release it’s getting.

In the end, Exactly Where I Am is a powerful and necessary contribution to the Marc with a C collection. It’s a very soulful addition that shows how far Marc’s ability to take pop seriously has come in his amazing tenure. If you’re new to Marc with a C, however, it would be an odd place to start. It’s a lot more somber than what you’ll normally get from his pop albums. If you’ve never listened to Marc, I’d actually advise checking out Popular Music or an older album first, as they’re a little more accessible. Exactly Where I Am seems almost more a gift for those that have been enjoying Marc for years. You can pick up a copy (either digitally or on vinyl) on his Bandcamp.

How Safe is it for Little Ears?

Like most of his discography, Exactly Where I Am is on the safer side, but make no mistake that it’s an adult album. It’s not littered with harsh words left and right, but there is some repeated vulgarity on tracks like “The Party Never Stops.” It’s not too bad, but don’t be surprised if you have to answer some rather uncomfortable questions if you have your kids around while playing it.

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