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Mac Miller's 'Circles': A perfect ending to an incredible career

28 January 2020 | 11:14 am | Parry Tritsiniotis

A companion album to the introspective ‘Swimming’, ‘Circles’ provides an optimistic outlook for the prospect of Mac Miller's career and life.

Now that a week or so has passed, I can finally reflect on what makes Mac Miller’s Circles a perfect ending to a glorious career. A companion album to the introspective Swimming, Circles provides an optimistic outlook for the prospect of Malcolm McCormick’s career and life.

We had the privilege of attending a private listening party for the album. Covered in fan art and fan messages, a room of dedicated Mac Miller fans gathered in a warehouse space for a communal first experience in hearing the new work. Postcards draped from the ceiling with letters from fans describing what Mac meant to them. Common themes were his impact on individuals' mental health, motivation in life, and the ability to spark creativity. The space was turned into a wholesome environment to engage and dissect an emotionally intense album for the first time.

A consistent and tight sonic vision lays the groundwork for Mac’s most intimate record. Stripped back production gives room for delicate vocal performances. Despite often veering into realms of genre, this is the closest McCormick has ever been to producing a fully-fledged singer-songwriter album. Elements of soul, jazz and funk combine effortlessly to create his tightest album.

The best example of this is on ‘Good News’, as sombre guitar lines and warm chord progressions complement an intensely sad yet beautiful lyrical display. Mac reflects on his role in the limelight, speaking on topics of abandonment, rejection, and self-loathing. Through his delivery, it appears Mac has accepted his fate, a devastating fact to bare for a Mac Miller fan, who unfortunately knows how his story ends. The feint guitar ballad opener ‘Circles’ and piano epic cover of Arthur Lee’s ‘Everybody’s Got to Live’ are tracks in a similar vein.

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The toughest track to get through however is ‘Hand Me Downs’. Beautiful in its nature, Mac’s delivery is whispery and eerie. Moving between thoughtful rapping and whimsical singing, it's the most engaging track on the album. The sentiment of the track is extremely heartfelt, as he raps and sings about having a desire to hand down his genes, and create new life that he is a part of. While you could say it’s the lightest or prettiest moment of the record, melancholy permeates the song given his passing. The optimism of Mac's lyrics and the sheer hopefulness of his words makes the listening experience an extremely difficult and complex one given what we know now.

However, upon further reflection, the sadness felt in the initial few listens has turned into gratefulness. Circles is a perfect closer to an incredible career. Malcolm was an artist that could bring people together in their collective struggles from all walks of life. Unifying a hip-hop community, the late singer-songwriter had the ability to give fans glimpses of hope through self-reflection. It’s powerful that his last piece of advice before his departure was that of optimism, of hope, of the fact that everything will be alright.

As the album ended at the listening party, a special bond was created between the people in the room. Tears were shed and hugs were shared as fellow fans, who had never met before, reflected on their mutual hero. The portraits and fan arts looked on to the emotional dwellers, mimicking the now omnipresent legacy of an extremely incredible artist.

Rest in Peace Malcolm James McCormick.

Image: Christian Weber