Circles is the new studio album from Mac Miller. It’s the first posthumous release since Mac’s passing in September 2018 and acts as a companion album to his last album, Swimming. The concept is that the records pairs two styles together to create an endless flow of sound, kinda like swimming in circles. Nice.
The title track opens the record with a blueprint of its sound. Warm, slightly fuzzed bass notes pair with floating synthesisers to produce an idyllic instrumental. Almost as if we’re up in the air, surrounded by clouds. Mac’s half spoken/sung vocals lazily hang amongst the layers, slowly leading the track into the much more immediate “Complicated”, with its heavier synth beats and slightly glitched percussion. These two tracks flow into one another effortlessly, showcasing the smoothness of this new sound.
“Good News” is the lead single for Circles and is a tough listen, in spite of how accessible it is. With its subdued drums, palm muted guitars and watery synths, there’s a real uplifting quality to it, which makes it even more cutting. Mac’s lyricism lay down lines like “so tired of being so tired” and “No, they don’t like it when I’m down” only highlights how much he was dealing with. Taking the context on board, I’d be lying if I said this song didn’t make me tear up.
This blend of idyllic instrumentation and sombre lyrics is an effective combination, and one that almost accepts the realisation that you cannot have those highs without experiencing the lows. The cover of Arthur Lee’s “Everybody’s Gotta Live” solidifies this notion, bringing a larger-than-life, piano-led instrumental with lyrics of “Everybody’s gotta live/And everybody’s gonna die”.
It seemed that over the last few releases, Mac was looking to progress his sound from the direct, traditional Hip Hop elements of his earlier records, Swimming seemed to embrace a more atmospheric approach. While the majority of the record succeeded in this sound, there were some spots that were a little rough around the edges, though I cannot deny that “What’s the Use?” absolutely slaps. Circles, however, realises this new sound and provides its smoothest execution, becoming the perfect swansong for the career of Mac Miller. Rest in peace, Mac.