Before his passing in September 2018, Mac Miller had been working on another album which was to accompany his 2018 release, “Swimming.” “Circles” is meant to close out Mac Miller’s discography, and it delivers on almost every aspect of a great album, albeit if lacking a diverse tracklist.
Jon Brion handles the production of “Circles,” and it faithfully captures Miller beyond just being a rapper. It also captures him being an artist with limitless taste. “Circles” finds Miller at his most subtle and empowering, and it’s a faithful way to rest the career of the late Pittsburgh native.
“Circles” opens up with the title track and it sets a tone of sparse production and minimalist direction. After the first track, the album contains slick cuts such as “Complicated” and “Blue Worlds,” which finds Miller blending between synth-pop and alternative hip-hop. “Blue Worlds” and “I Can See” are moments of grandeur and swagger and have Mac flowing over synth-chopped beats effortlessly.
While “Circles” does contain hip-hop tracks, it’s mostly a synth-pop album with elements of neo-soul, indie and R&B. Listeners might be turned off by the album’s direction, however it displays that Miller had planned to try other genres than just hip-hop.
The lead single, “Good News” has heavy use of lo-fi strings with Miller’s voice taking the stage with its downtrodden lyrics of his personal life. The downtempo single has depressing lines such as “Why can't it just be easy? / Why does everybody need me to stay?” and there are plenty more. The album serves as an emotional overview of Mac Miller’s mental state during his last days.
The second half of the album contains the most restrained production of any previous project. “Once A Day,” “Surf” and “Woods” have minimal instrumentation, but their power is made poignant from Miller’s vocal inflections and lyrics. The lowkey bass line of “Woods” compliments the texture of the track. Its concept of leaving the worst situation unscathed is heartbreaking considering Miller’s passing. “Circles,” “Good News” and “Once A Day” finds Miller at his most defeated, but are triumphant tracks that revel in their message of hope of a better tomorrow.
“Hands” and “That’s On Me” suffer from cluttered synths and repetitive choruses that don’t compliment Miller's vocal delivery. Miller’s voice is versatile when paired with the right instrumentation and production, but on “That’s On Me” and “Hands” these moments don’t serve the late artist any justice.
“Swimming” was Miller’s most personal album at the time of its release but “Circles” is his most intimate and mature. From corny rapper to one of the most interesting artists of the last decade, Miller had been consistent with his projects from “Watching Movies With The Sound Off” to now “Circles.”
Though “Circles” lacks in some areas, it's a reminder that Miller was more than just a rapper, he was an aspiring artist who planned to do more than just “stoner rap.” The final album from Miller serves as a comforting experience that highlights what we loved about the late artist; He was a witty writer, melodic vocalist, and ultimately a visionary who stayed true to himself.