Quite a few recent posthumous releases have been handled haphazardly, often forgoing artistic integrity in favour of name recognition. Mac Miller’s final album, Circles, is far from one of those releases. Nearly finished by the time of his passing and lovingly completed by legendary producer Jon Brion, it’s clear just how much Circles was meant to be a companion piece to 2018’s Swimming – “swimming in circles” being the ultimate takeaway.
Circles mostly touches on the same topics of isolation, heartbreak, depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms, but this time with a much-needed injection of hope that Miller could beat it and come out thriving on the other side – which only makes it all the more heartbreaking.
Miller was one to push himself further out of his musical comfort zone with every release – he barely raps on this project. Instead, his jazzy, mumbling singing voice is applied to soft and dreamy reverberating tones that verge on 70s psychedelic rock. He even covers a 1972 hit from Arthur Lee, which, chillingly, centres on accepting one’s eventual death and living in the moment.
Miller notes that he spends a lot of time in his head on the lead single, “Good News,” and most of this plays out like Miller acknowledging the critical inner monologues we all have, wondering if we’re on the right path. It’s a shame we never got to see where he was going.