Album review: Mac Miller’s “Circles”

Alyssa Bunde
Staff Writer

It’s been almost two years since Mac Miller’s death and since his last album “Swimming” came out. This past Friday we were gifted with his posthumous album “Circles” and I have mixed emotions about the album.

“Circles” was supposed to be the middle album in a trilogy by Mac, “Swimming” being the first. For “Circles”, Mac worked closely with well-known Producer Jon Brion, who has worked with big names like Kanye West and performed with The Grays. Unfortunately, the pair never fully finished the album and when Mac passed away, it remained untouched. Until approximately three months after Mac’s death, his family reached out to Brion and asked that he finish it.

When I first caught word that the album was coming out, I was skeptical. At the time I didn’t know how finished the album actually was when Brion was asked by Mac’s family to finish it. I wondered if it was going to still sound like Mac if he wasn’t there to help finalize it? I didn’t know much about Brion, what if he tampered too heavily with it? After my first listen I definitely let this concern influence my listen. Certain songs on the album, specifically “Blue World”, I listened to and hastily thought, “This doesn’t sound like him!”

However, after listening more and calming down, I ditched preconceived notions of malicious intent and began to listen to the lyrics more. Slowly but surely after each listen my concerns loosened and I started to enjoy the album more. Brion may have finished production, but it was still Mac’s voice and his thoughts and for that I was grateful. After each listen to the somber and melodic tunes I recognized the similar pain in Macs work that was also apparent in “Swimming”. 

He was battling demons that have been, excuse my cheesy reference, swimming in circles in his mind for quite some time. “Circles” continued the story of Mac’s depression and anxiety that he was feeling and unfortunately it wasn’t any more positive than what we heard from “Swimming”. However, similar to Mac’s past work, even though it was a troublesome and saddening message he was putting out, the mellow tunes that accompanied the lyrics provided and easy listen for one’s ear.

Even though I had made slight peace with the fact that Mac hadn’t been around for the finalization of “Circles” I still wanted to know more about Brion’s process of finishing it. During many interviews Brion commented on the devastation he felt when listening back to the unfinished tracks. In addition, he explained to the New York Times that he worked “painfully slow” on the album because he was “trying to figure out the way to change it as little as possible.”

Originally, I was skeptical of how much was actually finished with the “Circles” album but in the same interview with the Times, Brion calmed my nerves a little by stating, “We basically had an album’s worth of complete songs we had done together. The only things that were left undone were things that we needed to do in a bigger room that I had back in Burbank.” 

Maybe I didn’t dislike this Brion guy as much as I unfairly had before.

Despite my concerns and questions, I have about the album, the key factor is that Mac will never be back to confirm or deny any of them; and that is definitely the most disheartening aspect of this whole album release.

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