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Mac Miller - Circles (Album Review)

Monday, 27 January 2020 Written by Milly McMahon

Photo: Christian Weber

‘Circles’, Mac Miller's posthumous sixth album, represents his artistry with a clarity that feels both vulnerable and distinctly warm and reassuring. The diary-like compendium, which was in the works as a companion piece to 'Swimming' before the rapper’s death in 2018, moves with a built-in sense of irony, desperation and wisdom.

A brilliant ode to a kind man who died too soon, so many of the record’s sentiments outline the struggles Miller was negotiating. “Well, so tired of being so tired,” he laments on Good News. “Why I gotta build something beautiful just to go set it on fire?”

Moving on from the sometimes glib style he developed across his first three albums, he strips away some of the humour from his words and sings from the heart. ‘Circles’, which was completed by collaborator Jon Brion, allows the listener to sit with Mac, to hear his worries, to understand his insecurities.

This is the sound of an artist flourishing, which makes the material particularly painful to take in. “I need somebody to save me before I drive myself crazy,” he pleads on I Can See. There is a calm presence here, and on Everybody Mac sings: “Everybody's gonna die, everybody just wanna have a good, good time. I think you know the reason why.”

It's hard to square Miller’s intentions at this remove, but his poeticism and vision appear far-reaching. There is optimism, depth and passion here, and he diligently invested in his most intimate self to compose an album that communicates in a completely different way with his audience. 

Something that does seem clear is that Mac wanted people to feel and understand the intensity of his emotions and the sadness he experienced. Woods is a beautiful song where loneliness and hope resonate; it’s an existential reflection leads the narrative, plodding along with resignation.

Unavoidably, ‘Circles’ complete Mac's journey. Leaving his fans with a sense of peace, the decision to release this final LP is a wonderful gift and one that only illuminates the real loss this world has suffered.

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