When Mac Miller died in late 2018, the music world and fans felt a deep loss. The industry felt like it lost a ground-breaking artist, so when it was announced that a companion album to 2018’s Swimming would be released, fans were understandably excited. Circles was released on 17 of January 2020. His family stated that he had been “well into the process of recording” Circles by the time of his death. In the family’s statement on Miller’s Instagram, they explained the concept of the two albums as “two different styles complementing each other, completing a circle- Swimming in Circles was the concept”.

Miller was working with producer Jon Brion on Circles and the producer completed the album based on conversations and sessions the two had together. Brion was the co-producer and co-writer on Swimming, so fans know that he would have been faithful to Miller’s vision. Circles is a companion album to Swimming with similar sounds and themes, and because there is minimal rapping in Circles there is also a clear balance between the two albums. The tone in which the lyrics are delivered in Circles makes the album feel more like Miller sitting at a mic and having a conversation than a hip-hop album. However, Circles does not only stand out because of the chilled and distinct style but also because it is so much more optimistic than his previous work, where before his songs focused on his struggles.

In Circles he talks about a way out of the cycle he is stuck in. This optimism is shown in tracks like “Blue World” and “Good News” which was the first single released from the album. Another track illustrating this optimism is “Surf, shown by the lyrics “I know that somebody knows me/ I know somewhere there’s home/ I’m startin’ to see that all I have to do is get up and go”. “Circles” is a well selected opening track for the album, not only because it shares the album’s title, but also because the sound and lyrics encapsulate the vibe of the entire album. In the track, Miller acknowledges his struggles with drug abuse and that he feels like he cannot change. All the tracks that follow “Circles” then talk about small steps that he can take to change and to get better. The track “I Can See” is a definite highlight and is sure to be a favourite for a lot of people with its dreamy lyrics and attention-grabbing sound. If the sound of songs is how you choose your favourites, then the tracks to check out are “Circles”, “Blue World”, “That’s On Me” and Hands. Complicated is another standout from the album with its more soulful sound and deep lyrics focusing on taking one day at a time.

The album is also pure self-reflection which can especially be seen on tracks like “Circles”, which talks about feeling pessimistic about the future and being stuck in a circle. “Hand Me Downs” is another self-reflective track which is also the only track that features a different artist, with Australian rapper, Baro. There are aspects of the album that sound unfinished with incomplete verses and mumbled lyrics, but this does not make the album bad, it instead adds an aspect of going through the process of creating an album together. “Once A Day”, the final track on the album, is emotive and is a good close to the album. The album as a whole is cohesive and a natural progression of his work and one cannot help but feel the melancholy of a goodbye while listening to it. The ideas and lyrics behind the album make the listeners wonder what Miler’s work in the future would have sounded like and shows that he had so much more to share with the world.

The album is not just a posthumous release, but it cements him as an interesting and creative musician. Anyone who was a fan of Mac Miller or felt positively influenced by him will love this album and feel some type of closure. Circles is the perfect final word from a well respected artist, and in the words of Miller’s family; “it was important to Malcom for the world to hear it”.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

Image: UNO Gateway

EMILY HARRISON