Mac Miller’s posthumous Circles is a gorgeous feat, a continuation of his vision on Swimming, doused with a grimly prescient perspective on the struggles that eventually led to his tragic death in Sept. 2018. In this sense, it’s a staggeringly difficult listen.
There are songs and bars that speak to Mac’s life so directly, it’s as if he wrote them from a privileged perspective. But there’s nothing supernatural about Miller’s words here. He built his career off an intimacy with his battles and triumphs. Mac was astutely aware of the demons he had and spent so much time warring against. His music is personable because of it. He was less a superstar than a close friend popping in to say that he hit a rough patch, but everything would be alright. It feels familiar. Circles continues this in a magnificent way, but the specter of the words "posthumous" and "final" swarming the album make it a complicated listen. In that way, it’s a fitting ending to Mac’s career.
Mac’s career was emblematic of his personality. Gracious and eager to learn, the steps Mac took from his early releases like Blue Slide Park to where he arrived with Circles is stunning. The list of musicians Mac has collaborated over the years is a testament to both his musical vision and his personality. He was a rapper discovering palettes outside of his domain, and attracting players from all types of genres to accompany him. 2013’s GO:OD AM features Thundercat, Lil B, Little Dragon, and Chief Keef, while Tyler, the Creator hops aboard to add production. Money can score collaborators, sure, but Mac was somebody that musicians wanted to work with. His eagerness to get better and learn new tricks made him a gracious host. While Circles is rightfully limited to Mac and his relationship with production extraordinaire Jon Brion, the influences of his closest peers are all over the album.