Eminem may have taken a little bit of the shine today, but Mac Miller’s final album Circles is the real treat today. Released today by his family as his only posthumous album, Circles is the companion album to Miller’s 2018 LP Swimming. When Miller died in 2018, he was almost finished the new album. It was was completed with the assistance of producer Jon Brion, with whom Miller worked on Swimming and had been working together on Circles at the time of his passing.
“This is a complicated process that has no right answer. No clear path,” his family wrote in a letter on his Instagram. “We simply know that it was important to Malcolm for the world to hear it.”
Listening to a posthumous album always has a spooky quality to it. It is how a musician speaks to their fans from the dead and often there are lyrics that feel like a premonition of the tragedy to come.
“Some people say they want to live forever, that’s way too long I’ll just get through the day,” sings Miller on the upbeat and synth-heavy “Complicated.” He carries on that same thread about living day to day with the album opener “Circles,” where he sings, “Don't you put any more stress on yourself, it's one day at a time.”
Circles opens with the title track, which brings the idea that life may move in circles, but that can be comfortable to fall into a routine, despite everything else swirling around you. It is a circular vision for him, rounding out his musical ideas for what Swimming was going to be.
The upbeat synth found on “Complicated” gets chopped and glitched on “Blue World,” where he examines his life amidst the fog of depression. “Think I lost my mind, reality's so hard to find, When the devil tryna call your line, but shit, I always shine, Even when the light dim,” he sings in the final verse.
His own battles with drugs, relationships and his inner demons drive the narrative for the album. Battling with depression was a major and tragically prophetic theme on Swimming and those same ideas are expounded on with Circles.
Just like on Swimming, he steps away from just rapping to a hazy, mellow singing that doesn’t step too far from his previous work, but offers a new output for him to express his ideas.
“Good News” fits as the primary mood sonically of the album. There are tracks that add a little extra funk like “Woods,” but it is simple and organic. Breezy guitar help guide each song melodically alongside his voice as gentle percussion provides the soft backbone to each song. “That’s On Me” takes strong cues from indie rock with the breezy guitar and his repetition in the chorus.
Eventually the album comes to a conclusion with the heartbreaking closer “Once A Day” where it seems as though he was starting to understand his depression and how to cope with it. “Don’t keep it all in your head, the only place that you know nobody ever can see, you’re running low on regret, no tears, that's keeping you wet, I think you gettin' it now,” he sings in a most relatable way.
Circles is a beautiful examination of the problems that plagued Miller towards the end of his life. It is haunting to see him examine everything he suffered with and eventually contributed to his eventual death. It is breezy and relaxing, sucking into its hypnotic gaze. You get lulled into Miller’s hazy and smoky voice over smooth instrumentals. If this is the final message to the world by Mac Miller, let it be Circles.
Stream the album below and get your copy here.