Perhaps one of the best posthumous releases of all time.
Working lightyears ahead of the frat-rap-tinged mixtape era, ‘Circles’ and its excellent predecessor ‘Swimming’ are grounded in soul, introspection and minimalism. It’s a complete right-turn in sounds and honesty on behalf of Mac and a testament to his rich artistry. All this only adds to the immense tragedy of his early passing now in having heard his vision for his unactualised records.
It’s still not 100% clear how much of this is Mac’s original vision and that of producer Jon Brion, whom Miller hired due to his love of the ‘Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind’ soundtrack. The stark and crisp production Brion lends to the mix is what makes the album shine brighter than anything else in his discography.
There’s a freedom in the record where Mac pursues a stripped-back approach to rap, soul and folk. Never feeling scattered but rather a direct endeavour to craft a series of intimate moments to show just where Mac was before his passing. Despite a gradual sense of building optimism, this honesty is what makes the record so heartbreaking. In that, there’s a clear message that Mac was aware of this trajectory, but wanted to get better.
This is no more evident than in the lead single ‘Good News’. Its detailing of Mac’s isolation is one of the most affecting points on the records, and reveals a personal side of Mac far removed from the days of ‘GO:OD AM’. The organic instrumentation and band backing on the ‘Everybody’ cover is a nice contrast to the grim implications of other moments like ‘Complications’ or ‘Woods’. The nicest surprise on the record is the waltz of ‘That’s On Me’ which comes out of nowhere respectively, and the closer ‘Once A Day’ perfectly loops the record back in on itself in a thoughtful loop to close the ‘Circles’ concept.
Although completely crushing at its deepest moments in knowing how the album is a reflection of his final months, ‘Circles’ is one of the most beautifully subtle posthumous releases of all time. It shows the potential of an artist moving into his complete vision and beginning to execute it.
It’s the last thing we would’ve expected from Mac considering the 10 years of music released prior, which only worsens the loss felt by his passing.
Vale Mac Miller.
'Circles' is available now in the Store alongside ‘Swimming’.