Album Review: Mac Miller - Faces

Love him or hate him, it is hard to argue that Mac Miller’s greatest strength is that he is constantly evolving. In the past 5 years or so, he has grown from being an unknown Pennsylvania teenager with a small following of college kids, to scoring features with the likes of Ab-Soul and Pharrell. He has grown from being just another stoner MC falling back on the “weed and money” motif, to producing some of the most original and thought provoking material of his career. Those who have been following Mac Miller for the past few years will embrace his latest mixtape, Faces, as a culmination of all of the style changes, experimentation and personal transformation which have brought Miller to this point, while those left sleeping will likely deem this latest effort as a good time to hop on the bandwagon.

“I should’ve died already,” Miller chants on head bopping opener, “Inside Outside”. With an easygoing saxophone riff, Miller (or rather his producer alter-ego, Larry Fisherman) invites listeners into a chilled out, almost nostalgic mood. Miller’s wide awake delivery combined with elements of electronic randomness keep things fresh and inject just the right amount of energy. From there, the tape flows quite seamlessly; so much so that at times it is easy to miss track changes.

Despite the artful and worthwhile risks Miller takes musically, the star of Faces truly is the lyrical content. With each track Miller paints his narrative, tackling themes such as love, addiction, self-loathing, the highs and lows of fame and still somehow leaves listeners with the sense that he was better for it all. Tracks like “Colors and Shapes” experiment with the type metaphorical story telling we got a glimpse of on Miller’s most recent studio release Watching Movies with the Sound Off.

One might guess that this heaviness is what inspired Miller to opt for more and more somber production choices as the mixtape progresses. He really wanted listeners to focus on what he was saying. However, the vibe can at times cross the line from minimalist to boring—especially during the second half.

To Miller’s credit, I doubt a critique of this project will ever note a lack of ambition. Boasting 24 tracks, Faces times out at nearly 90 minutes, and unfortunately this is the project’s greatest pitfall. Right around the one-hour mark, things begin to tread a bit on the side of redundancy. Had Miller instead decided to close the project with the introspective “Funeral”, the tape as a whole would have been a lot more memorable. The back end of Faces is not totally devoid of notable moments though. Earl Sweatshirt brings one of the strongest feature performances on “New Faces” and the trap-esque flavor of “Insomniak” offers the closest thing this album gets to a banger.

Overall, Faces is worth a listen because it showcases a rapper who truly is beginning to come into his own. Mac Miller is taking risks and developing his style--and despite a few throw away tracks--isn’t that what mixtapes are for? For new listeners, Faces is a great “and if ya don’t know, now ya know” album, and for old heads Faces offers plenty of optimism for Miller’s next LP.  

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- Syron Townsend, Contributor