Album Review: Circles by Mac Miller
By Koleman Werner (dj moosethatstuff)
Ugh. ok. Here it goes.
This one was tough.
Let me preface this review by saying that I legitimately cried 3 separate times going through this album to write this review.
It’s been about 16 months since we lost the incomparable rapper, singer, song writer, producer Mac Miller and personally, life hasn’t been the same since.
Mac was the first artist I ever bought a song off iTunes for in 6th grade, and mixtapes of his such as Faces, as well as albums like Watching Movies with the Sound Off, have had a profound impact on the way I have grown up, the way I view the world, and how I live my life in general.
It’s rare sometimes that someone like myself who listens to an immense amount of music, especially Hip Hop and R&B, that I was able to form such an intense bond with the artist and the material, that I was naturally devastated when I had learned of his untimely and tragic death on September 7 of 2018 at the age of 26.
Mac was coming off the heels of what I believed to be one of his most fleshed out and personal projects in quite some time in 2018’s Swimming, which only left me to fantasize about what we would never be able to hear, as Mac had an industry reputation of having an insane amount of unreleased catalogue even while he was still with us.
But here we are.
Circles, was supposed to be and now is the companion piece to Swimming, (“Swimming in Circles”), and we are able to digest this project largely in part to contributions made by producer and composer Jon Brion, whom Mac had been frequently working with prior to his passing away. Brion in a recent interview with Zane Lowe on Beats 1 radio, stated that yes he sequenced and put finishing touches on the album, but that it was largely in part finished before we lost Mac.
This news was delightful to me because I always am uneasy when posthumous albums are released, mostly because it is hard to tell whether or not the body of work represents the artists true vision of what it was supposed to be.
I am happy and relieved to say that this sounds like it is far from the case, because Circles is in every sense, utterly beautiful.
Circles is Mac Miller’s full realization of himself as a true singer, songwriter, and producer, and does an incredible job at continuing the themes put in place on Swimming from a lyrical and production standpoint, as well as continuing his overarching artistic themes of seamlessly blending Hip Hop, Soul, and R&B.
It’s hard to not view and take in this album through the “loss” lens, because the lyrics are so melancholy, but wow is this some of Mac’s best songwriting being showcased here. On the record’s lead single “Good News,” Mac opens the track with,
“I spent the whole day in my head, Do a little spring cleanin’, I’m always too busy dreamin’, Well, maybe I should wake up instead.”
The moment I heard that I swear to god I started bawling.
Production wise, Circles is glossy, and polished, but also washed out just like much of Swimming. Simplistic, but not simple enough to be one dimensional. Lots of synths and guitars and pianos are featured with marching drums to keep the rhythm.
Circles features upbeat cuts like “Complicated,” and “Blue World,” the latter of which features a mesmerizing gated synth melody that is instant ear candy, but also insanely personal and lonely cuts like “Woods,” “Good News,” the record’s outro “Once a Day,” and “That’s On Me,” which honestly sounds like it could’ve been a Beatles track.
“Surf,” the penultimate song of the batch, is bouncy and vibey and has this incredible compressed electric guitar that comes in and out of the pocket as Mac gloomily croons about taking a step back to view his life and gives us a look in on his self-esteem issues.
To be honest, the whole record is extremely personal and makes me ache for the person that this came from because I know exactly what he was feeling and going through.
Mac Miller has a near flawless discography, and Circles is the perfect 12 track bookend for one of the most talented artists of our generation. There was so much that could have gone wrong with this release, but I am overjoyed that there is so much that is right with it.
We miss you and love you Mac.
Rest In Peace Malcom James McCormick.