MAC MILLER Circles gets 8/10

Mac Miller


Following on from last week’s single release Good News, Mac Miller’s estate has released a full-length posthumous album, Circles. According to Miller’s family, this album was well into the recording stages at the time of his passing with the final productions carried on by collaborator Jon Brion. With soft, sonic aesthetics and dreamy landscapes, each track boasts Miller’s effortless singing voice more than we have heard before and questions just where the young rapper would have directed his career in the coming years.

Album opener and namesake, Circles, begins with the now sadly fitting line “Well, this is what it look like right before you fall.” An ode to love and loss, this heartbreaking track is a strong first addition with an immediate insight into the rest of the record both in subject matter and lo-fi sound. The album then picks up with Complicated and houses a groovy backing to juxtapose the confronting lyrical matter. In true Mac Miller style with a little cheek, he states “Some people say they want to live forever/ That’s way too long, I’ll just get through today.” Musically, the melodic and echoey synths almost outshine the effortlessly smooth vocals.

Hand Me Downs reminds the listener this album was never supposed to be a posthumous release and demands the record be listened to at least twice: once to reflect on the impact and meaning it holds now, and again to consider the context of these songs before Miller’s passing. While the track places us inside a clearly troubled mind, it holds an optimism and a want to break the circle of depression. This is lyrically evident with “Yeah, well I’m just being honest/ My conscience ain’t doin’ bad/ Because I try to minus the problems that I attract.” It is also the only track with a feature, as none other than Australian artist Baro sings and plays the drums on the track.

As the album continues to fluctuate between moments rooted in hip hop and sweetly stripped back vulnerabilities, Hands sits as a very traditional rap song. With an almost orchestral quality to the backing and a bursting lyrical flow, Miller is again proving his talent knows no bounds. In the context of the album, it is a rare rambling with more indirect lyrics than the other tracks adding to that expected rap vibe.

Once A Day closes the album and has little structure but high emotions. It’s a reflective thought on society and how Miller saw himself within this reality. The short chorus is a standout moment on the album both lyrically and vocally. Ending on such an emotional track seems fitting for the album, and rounds out the sound in the most meaningful way. With this song as an obvious inclusion for the purpose of closure, in no way does the album feel put together for this reason alone.

As a whole, Circles showcases Miller’s songwriting abilities despite focusing on a somewhat repetitive inspiration. Part of what keeps this interesting is the additional production and the blurring of genres present throughout the LP. As a companion to Swimming, it completes the Swimming in Circles concept Miller envisioned and while he never got to hear this release, this carefully thought out 12 tracker makes its mark on his discography as a final (for now) release.


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