MAC MILLER passed away tragically in September 2018. His legacy involves beautiful pieces of work like the album “The Divine Feminine” released in 2016 and “Swimming” in 2018, amongst other collaborations and singles to add to his legacy. Mac had written demos for an album following the theme of his 2018 release “Swimming”. His friend and producer Jon Brion offered to finish up the work on these demos and release the posthumous album “Circles”.
Loneliness, despair, hopelessness, are themes that are so common in the music we hear. Very few pieces of work have been able to capture these emotions and paradigms in such a simple yet surreal way, while also giving you a weird sense of calm.
The album kicks off with the title song “Circles”. The deep bass drives through with some minimal vocals. It almost sounds like Mac is just looking out of a window and serenading a sleeping city in the middle of the night. That is one of the things I really admire about Mac Miller, his ability to sound relatable. It’s like he’s right next to you, just speaking to you, like a friend would.
It then picks up the pace with “Complicated”. The upbeat synth sounds are complemented with some dreamy vocals. The standout lyric that hit me was “Some people say they want to live forever, That’s way too long I’ll just get through the day, without any complications”. This song ends with a beautiful silky smooth, sparkly section, with "MonoNeon" on the bass guitar, really showing us how it’s done,
“Blue World” is one of the tracks which really focuses on the Mac’s rap prowess. It keeps a pretty fast rhythm throughout the track. It’s a good refresh of pace from the previous two songs in the album. It really adds to the journey by building a little tension with its composition style.
And then we come to my personal favourite track of the album, “Good News”. Starting us off with a rhythmic plucked instrument section that seems a little off-time at first, but as it cycles through with some more added layers, slowly starts making sense. The underlying theme is hopelessness and frustration, “I wish I could just get out of my goddamn way”. This theme is somehow contrasted with a sense of peace and calm with the production and the delivery of the lyrics. This is what really draws me into the album.
The next song “I can see” is a luscious, smooth and sultry piece. It truly does feel like a dream, with some heavenly synth sounds and a minimalistic beat to tie it together.
“Everybody” is a breezy experience. The drums and the piano melt into each other like butter on hot toast. The song is filled with beautiful refrains all the way through. This is a recipe for the perfect ear worm. “Everybody’s gotta live, And everybody’s gonna die”. This is followed by “Woods”. Brace yourselves for some tasty bass lines and groovy drum sequences. The arrangement of this song is really well done. It builds tension and then opens up into a lush and almost ethereal section in the end.
“Hand Me Downs” is a smooth and jazzy with some beautifully layered soft synths and some very interesting sounding instruments. We have “Baro” an Australian singer and rapper who lends his vocals on this track. He also plays the drum sections. The vocal layers are really well put together. This song is a mood for sure.
The next song “That’s On Me” eases the tension and intensity of the last two songs. Melodic plucked guitar sections and minimal drums sections really help with the brightness of this song. The vocals are ethereal and really fill up the space. This is followed by “Hands” that is a good contrast from all the melodic elements of the previous tracks. It’s more raw and feels like spoken word almost.
“Surf” comes after this and beautifully rounds things off. The gentle melodies of Mac’s vocals, backed by some really beautiful guitar bits, "Yeah, well, sometimes I get lonely, not when I'm alone, but it's more when I'm standin' in crowds that I'm feelin' the most on my own". Those lyrics really stand out to me. It's something we can all relate to, on some level. Reminds me of a line from Bojack Horseman "There's nothing lonelier than a party."
Mac ends this album with the song "Once a day". This song speaks to the emotion a lot of us face in life, the feeling that everyone is rushing past you, and you are left behind. Again he portrays that emotion in such a heart wrenching, refrain filled arrangement. It's a fitting end to this journey.
Thanks for sharing a part of your soul with every piece of music you have shared with us, you will be missed!