Album Review: Swimming

It has been well over a year since Mac Miller left this world. He created over five studio albums (a sixth released posthumously) and thirteen mixtapes, a well-established and highly respected rapper. His musical growth is irrefutable, as both a producer and an artist. His later albums incorporated singing just as much as rapping; drawing on clear R&B, jazz and funk influences.

Photographer: Clarke Tolton

Mac’s fifth and last (self-released) album is gorgeous, with a chilled, woozy vibe. His wistful rapping is spacey and soulful. Gentle orchestral arrangements swell throughout the expressive record. Swimming cuts no emotional corners as Mac raps and sings about struggles with addiction and mental health. Despite the potential for this record to be heavy and performative in its sadness, Mac managed to make an album that is pure lightness and calm in its clarity.

Mac’s creative and artistic improvement since his first album is undeniable. Swimming is sophisticated and stripped back, he lets the beats breathe with occasional mixes of piano and synth. ‘Ladders’ has echoes of The Divine Feminine’s funk with its brass instrumentals, and it is perhaps the most up-tempo song on the album. ‘Self Care’ was co-written by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) and his influence is clear. The song cumulates in a dreamy interlude where Mac sings ‘I got all the time in the world, so for now I’m just chilling’ and ‘it’s a beautiful feeling, in oblivion’. On ‘2009’ Mac includes melodic piano interludes and gentle snare beats, simultaneously sweet and bittersweet. He sings softly ‘sometimes I wish I took a simpler route, instead of having demons that’s as big as my house’. The record finishes with ‘So It Goes’. On this song muted guitars and spacey synth glide alongside Mac’s honest and peaceful acceptance that he’ll never be able to work it all out. 

It would have been a dream to see Mac’s music grow further in new creative directions after this album. Still, Swimming is a beautiful last mark to leave on the music industry, it’s quintessentially an ode to healing, acceptance and self love.

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