‘Good News:’ Mac Miller has given us one last gift with ‘Circles.’

Loughlin Browne

On Jan. 17, Mac Miller fans were given one more chance for closure when his family released “Circles,” a companion album to 2018’s “Swimming.” The album was completed by producer Jon Brion after Miller’s death from an accidental drug overdose halted the production of the album. Now it serves as a time capsule to the potential his career could have had. His family made a statement in a Jan. 8 Instagram post announcing the album by saying “We are left to imagine where Malcolm was going and to appreciate where he was,” expressing that they believe Miller would have wanted them to share his work. “Circles” is Miller’s last impression on the world, a sample of what could have been. 

Image courtesy of Genius

Miller’s signature creativity is clear in the album, and listening to it is a calming experience. However, many of the songs on the album are not as catchy or memorable as some of his past music. The 12-song album holds little development, and while the songs are pretty and pleasant, they lack any serious deviation from each other. The album opener and title track “Circles” has a chill, ambient vibe with simple instrumentation, setting the tone for the rest of the album, which is considerably mellower than his previous work. “Good News,” the only single off the album, is mostly monotone and not very distinguishable from the other slow songs on the album, like “Woods,” “Hands” and “Surf.” 

The energy does pick up with the second track, “Complicated,” a song that outlines the confusions in Miller’s life. Lyrics like, “Some people say they want to live forever/ That’s way too long, I’ll just get through today,” and “Well, I’m way too young to be gettin’ old” reveal Miller’s infamous struggles with substance abuse, a looming theme throughout the album.

Familiar vocals take the forefront in most of the songs, and his melodies are sometimes reminiscent of the melodies in his older pieces. But when compared to his past discography, “Circles” falls short. This is particularly evident when its rather sparse arrangements are compared to the electronics, strings and pianos featured in “Swimming,” but that’s to be expected considering Miller wasn’t able to finish the production himself. 

My favorite song on the album, “I Can See,” is more similar to his past work. Set to syncopated drums and an extraterrestrial, dreamy synth, it contains an anonymous female harmony that has been speculated by fans to be Miller’s ex, Ariana Grande who was featured in his previous song, “My Favorite Part.” 

Although, like most posthumous albums, “Circles” isn’t quite as outstanding as Miller’s fully flushed out work, it is the perfect soundtrack for relaxing. Miller’s final album feels nostalgic, but it’s haunted by dramatic irony. As you listen to Miller’s voice, you can’t shake from your mind the knowledge that tragedy befell him so soon after he wrote these songs.