Kiefer’s Music Mondays: Mac Miller’s ‘Swimming’

We lost Mac Miller a year ago this week.

“Yeah, okay you gotta jump in to swim.”

Released just a month before his untimely passing one year ago, Mac Miller’s fifth studio album, Swimming, turned out to be a post-mortem concept album of the highest caliber. 

“It ain’t 2009 no more.”

Representing the high water mark of his signature wordplay, Miller’s oddly precognitive writing is matched by an awe-inspiring number of ruminative quips revolving around heartbreak and his personal demons. Despite frequent playfulness, his clever use of seemingly obvious metaphor, like when he raps “the only thing she’s driving is a hard bargain” on “Perfecto,” opens a window in his troubled and deeply self-aware soul.

There’s a certain undefinable quality to “Wings,” which might be the most theoretically introverted track on Swimming, in addition to being the album’s crux, where Mac discusses various viewpoints of himself in his dissertation of how and why he is the way he is. Even sonically it defies itself by being quite literal and essentially a capella, before wavering into dreamlike notions with auto-tuned harmonies and stretched out melodies. “Small Worlds” works in the same way, as he poses deep questions about his life and lifestyle.

“Isn’t it funny? We can make a lot of money, buy a lot of things, just to feel a lot of ugly.”

The album’s sophisticated lyricism is outlined by its beautiful, emotionally intense instrumentation. The engaging arrangements range from simple to elaborate, but they’re always as catchy as they are endearing. Laced with swaggy jazz over a lot of gorgeous soul tunes, the delicate production packs a powerful punch.

“Nowadays all I do is shine, take a breath and ease my mind.”

As the album’s soul-searching reaches its home stretch, “Dunno” winds down with endearing and apologetic notions, while “Jet Fuel” exercises a sense of eagerness with its experimentation. Tying things up, “2009” magnificently summarizes the album’s overall tone with its wonderful joie de vivre lyricism. Despite its ominous nature, it epitomizes the overall theme of exemplifying life’s ups and downs in all their glory.

“See what’s behind all them unturned stones, and I’m a pro when it come to my job.”

Swimming is an excellent, and moreover important, album for the world to reflect upon. Mac Miller found a grace, dignity and beauty in presenting a sense of overwhelmingly realistic views on life. Due to its haunting allusions and meta prognoses (see “Self-Care”), it will also forever be a harrowing coda on the life and times of Malcom James McCormick.

“It’s like I never felt alive before, mhmm, I’d rather have me peace of mind than war.”

Listen to: “Come Back To Earth,” “Wings,” “2009”

[Read our original review of Swimming here.]