Mac Miller’s first posthumous album is a jogging final stretch where soft drums, slow melodies and occasional excitement guide the listener through lyrical pits and peaks of past and present.
Miller began working on “Circles” as a complementary album to his 2018 project “Swimming.” He completed a large portion of the album in conjunction with producer-composer Jon Brion, and it shows. While Brion’s master touch lays clarity and groundwork for the album’s general sound, the true creativity comes from the slightly rare but obvious influence Miller has in the production.
“Circles” is a testament to Miller’s ability to consistently create innovative music. Forging a unique sound for himself throughout the album, Miller lays indie over hip hop over funk. Circles becomes more of a supplement to “Swimming” than Miller probably intended. Unfortunately, listeners question “Where is this going?” too often throughout the album to be considered at the top of Miller’s discography.
The last time someone other than Miller himself produced his music (e.g. ID Labs, Eric Dan), he was a rising frat rapper making music for the mainstream. This time around, Miller’s outlook on life has matured, and his melancholic lyrics are both nostalgic and introspective. While “Circles” was certainly more effectively managed than XXXTentacion’s posthumous albums have been, it lacks Miller’s true form in both direction and sound.
Tracks like “Circles,” “Good News,” “Hand Me Downs” and “Hands” demonstrate the overall funky/hiphoppy sadness that pervades the album. Some experimental synths in “Complicated” and “Blue World” are new to Miller, but not to the world. The push and pull of Miller’s original vision and Jon Brion’s creativity culminate in the last two tracks “Once a Day” and “Surf,” which are the best that this album has to offer. These two tracks represent a successful attempt of Brion to finish what Miller started, effectively fusing sights, sounds and memorable creativity.