January 18th, 2020, this is the day I decided to jot down my thoughts on Mac Miller’s first postmortem album and sixth album overall, “Circles.” This album is a experience, one I wish had a brighter ending but like any good production we will not get the ending we always want, with Miller’s sudden passing at 27 on September 7th, 2018 at 27 many fans wondered what would happen with Malcolm’s unreleased music. Enter Jon Brion, a producer from Malcolm’s fifth and final studio album during his lifetime, “Swimming” who helped finish the cycle of “Circle” which Mac Miller was setting up to release as a companion to “Swimming”, two completely different styles that would complement each other, “Swimming in Circles.” I spent a lot of time listening to “Swimming” and now can see the vision Malcolm must have had, while “Swimming” is a jazzy, up beat funk fest that has the young artist talk about his drug addiction, battle with depression and the state of mind he was in “Circles” has a more psychedelic and alternative sound that sees Miller talk about not dwelling on the past while rising above the ball and chain on your ankles to soar into the clouds and enjoy life. I have now listed to “Circles ” sober and baked, needing to have a different level of insight since music will hit you differently based on mood and mindset, I wanted to really soak in what is the final album from a artist I had great respect for, all I can say is thank you Mr and Mrs McCormick for releasing this and thank you Jon Brion for completing the circle, these are my thoughts on “Circle.”
Our journey begins with the self-titled track “Circles.” As a guitar plays over, Miller’s voice begins 40 seconds into the song as he seems to talk about a relapsing person, which makes a lot of sense to me since “Circles” are typically formed by those who struggle to change and Miller had been battling himself on and off. “Complicated” changes the mood quickly, a synth-funk stylized track with the simple message of not over complicating life while keeping focus on the now. I think the song is Miller covering anxiety which will lead to a person mentally overdoing or complicating a situation that could have been avoided. “Blue World” which my friend Montana said was fire definitely got me really into a groove. Starting with a sample from vocal quartet The Four Freshmen’s 1950 song “It’s a Blue World”, the song rubs off to me as not letting a bad day ruin you, that though you may lose people or have a bad day don’t let that your yellow sunshine being blued out over things you shouldn’t trip about. “Good News” which was the first and only single for “Circles” follows afterwards, I had summed this song up before when it originally released and still keep the same idea of what this song is. We’ve all had a bad day, bad week, hell even just bad months and years where all we can do is just hope for something positive to help keep you going, this is the main theme of “Good News” that all Miller is looking for is a beam of hope to keep himself smiling through all the long, tiresome days. “I Can See” is the fifth track from the album which is where we shall notice the change in sound of “Circles” to “Swimming.” This is a track about being self-aware that you’re mentally spiraling out of control. This like I said is where the music begins to really melt ya brain children. “Everybody” is a favorite for me right here, loud drums and Miller’s vocals are what begin this track that reminds me a lot of John Lennon’s “Imagine” in concept. This is a song that anybody can relate to hence the name, a song where you feel the pain in Miller’s vocals as he states true facts such as our death and lust to party. I think this is truly a beautiful album that has a hint of blues style in it but again, play Lennon’s “Imagine” after this and tell me you how you didn’t feel the similarity.
“Woods” was also another dope track, I felt like i had been listening to Blood Orange at first because of the long drum solo but man was this such a trip when I was stoned. Lyrically the song seems to draw on someone not letting Miller’s present state help move from his past image, as if he is trapped in a forest of foreign imagery. As the song progresses he starts finding closure in his past and present to elevate and move into the future, whatever that may have been. “Hand Me Downs” is definitely on some GOAT level shit. I can’t even fathom this song, I have probably played this song the most from the entire album purely due to my love for Baro, the guest vocalist on this album. “Hand Me Down” sees Miller really explain his coping methods while expressing his mental health which is beautifully done on his second verse of this song, hands down one of the best verses from this whole album. But credits to Baro who at first i had deadass thought was Frank Ocean but once I had controlled my high and stopped tripping I came to Google that it wasn’t señor Ocean. “That’s On Me” feels like Miller taking responsibility for his addiction and trying to tell himself that he can change this situation while yet battling still with himself on if he can let it go. The conflicting but constant fight with yourself is one that many struggle with and I think that was the theme made for this song is responsibility of yourself. “Hands” was a really cool track, the production reminded me a bit of Tyler, the Creator’s “Wolf” or “Flower Boy” while lyrically Miller ask the greatest question, when was the last time you took time for yourself? I think many including myself struggle with taking care of ourselves first, while many of the tracks bars are solid I really felt just that question and think it defines the song as a whole. “Surf” had me crashing when I first heard it, this has a love song written all over it. With the guitar playing in style of surf rock from the 60’s, I felt this had vibes of a former lover that you miss because they were your true love which could possibly be a nod to Ariana Grande who was Miller’s final partner before death. This overall was a really dope track that has a lot of flare. “Once A Day” concludes my trip through the cycle that is “Circles.” The song seems to discuss the theme of trying to live life fast while speeding by moments you can’t get back, the open door being those opportunities you blazed through. Getting high was a way for Miller to slow down and escape this fast paced life he had as a musician and I feel it since I will smoke to slow down and breath, the high calming my nerves as I am able to take in everything, yet like Miller the high is something you can’t abuse because you’ll eventually be getting so high and move so fast you’ll miss life. That sad truth is evident as like the album this will be the conclusion rather then continuation of Mac Miller since he would pass away from a accidental overdose, the cycle has repeated and the circle has been formed.
11:10 PM on January 22nd, 2020, I finished just about everything when it comes to this review and have to say this is easily a Album of the Year nominee for any music awards show. I think this was a beautiful conclusion/companion to “Swimming” and really showed a raw side of Miller. My favorite tracks had to be “Everybody”, “Hand Me Downs” and “That’s On Me.” I have theorized that “Everybody” is pretty much “Imagine” by John Lennon, this track is beautiful and I will clog your toilet if you think any different on this one. “Hand Me Downs” was a treat due to Baro’s feature which had me surprised on what is a solid track. “That’s On Me” was the final letter from Malcolm I think, this was hearing Miller who has a documentary on his drug addiction owning to his demons and beautifully showing it off in his music. Please listen to “Circles” whether you’re a fan of Miller or a newcomer, hell even if you hate him because this album will take you on a ride through a mentally ill man who only wanted to feel better. I am The Musical Hippie and these were my thoughts on “Circles” by Mac Miller.