I listened to this album a lot before writing this. I listened to it at work, playing FIFA, cooking dinner, and on a crowded train with crappy airplane headphones. And in all those settings, I found things I liked and disliked. Mac Miller has never truly impressed me since I saw him in concert at The Meadows in 2016. I don’t know if I was too sober for him or he was too intoxicated for me but ever since he hasn’t been on my rotation much. Yet with the drop of Swimming, I knew I couldn’t ignore him much more. Let’s dive into this project.
Look. You can disagree with me all you want but Mac cannot sing. He sucks but he makes up for it with his lyricism. When you really dig into some of his verses, you notice some really unique rhyming patterns and very clever lines.
“Way up where we on, space shuttle, Elon/Time we don’t waste much, fuck when we wake up/Then have her sing just like Celine Dion/Catch me if you can but, yeah you never catch me damn/Whole lotta “yes I am”
Many of his verses are more personal. Having recently gone through a break-up with his girlfriend Ariana Grande, many of his lyrics are more focused on the self-care needed after hitting that low point of depression. All of that is well done and you really feel for the Pittsburgh rapper. Yet, he loses it with the lack of versatility in his flows. Many of the songs just sound very similar, much of that coming from this very monotone, slower verses. We know he has a range of speed when it comes to rapping however he only shows little glimpses of it, “Ladders” being one. I understand that it’s his fifth studio album and its supposed to be more vibey, but that doesn’t mean every verse has to be so monotone.
Mac and his production team killed it on this aspect of the project. I was pleasantly surprised how instrumentally dynamic this album was. Thundercat slaps the bass so cleanly on “What’s the Use?”. The entrance to “2009” is a beautiful piece from what sounds like a string quartet. Horns compliment the chorus on “Ladders”. And throughout much of the album, you get some awesome piano chords. There is really not much to complain here…because it is just plain good. The instrumentals of Swimming are a really nice break from the seemingly industry-wide push toward more trap sounding beats. “Perfecto” has to have my favorite sound of the album. Those sweet synths and funky keys just make it sound so beachy and smooth.
Larry Fisherman, Mac’s producing alter-ego, had a major hand in how the album flowed and mixed and it shows. The flow is near perfect. Everything sounds very pleasing together. The transitions are on point and the beat switch-ups are really killer on “Small Worlds” and “Self Care”. Is it artistic? Not really but that doesn’t really take away from how smooth this album came out.
“What’s the Use?”, “Self Care”, “Jet Fuel”, and the live, NPR version of “2009”
So as I said before, last time I really listened to Mac Miller, it was live and I was not a fan. After listening to his latest work, I can definitely say he has grown on me. While this is his most personal and pessimistic record yet, it is still solid. That’s the best way to describe it. Swimming gets a:
This is the kind of album you can put on in the background during any chill activity. Beach? Yes. Cleaning? Yes. Hanging out? Yes. Walking around a zoo while its raining and you forgot an umbrella? Sure why not. Turning up at a club? Nahhhh.