Review Summary: "Sometimes, the good times can be a trap."
I have spent a considerable amount of time listening to Faces
this year. When Delusional Thomas
came out in all of its overly violent and offensive glory in October of last year, I was incredibly impressed with the murky beats and Miller's choice to pitch his voice up and create something very different. His choice of features included Bill, Da$h, and Earl Sweatshirt
, providing further proof that Mac knows how to keep his songs varied and interesting. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the artist in general is the fact that he seems to be uninterested in staying within the confines of the commercial hip-hop which brought him to prominence in the first place. There is a certain dichotomy in the present-day Mac Miller; the party anthems and frankly horrible lyricism that he was known for are a far cry from the sometimes introspective and always drug-inspired tracks that Faces
has in spades. He seems to be aware of this, and the entirety of the mixtape is spent taking the listener further into the cracks and crevices of Mac Miller's head. The surprising thing about this is that his drug-addled mind is actually very interesting. Songs like "Malibu" detail explorations into suicidal thoughts and addictions of different kinds. Confessional lyrics like, "At the rate I'm getting high/It'll be hard for me to find tomorrow" and "They was all laughing, wasn't that funny/I started ***ing with drugs and now I'm a junkie" over a low-key, subtle beat is in stark contrast to Miller's past works. What he ends up depicting is an entertainer that has risen to fame and lost himself in the empty world of drug addiction, alcohol reliance, and fake relationships. Faces
is Miller resigning himself to this world, pondering what could have been from his place of isolation.
Fortunately, not all of the mixtape is depressing; Miller has given his listeners the most sonically varied album of his career. The jubilant horns in the background of "Therapy" and the happy-go-lucky chorus of "Angel Dust" are juxtaposed against the bold, brutally honest lyricism. The beats are among the highlights throughout, as they lean more towards a subtle, layered structure that works well with Miller's laid-back delivery. "Polo Jeans" is a great example of everything coming together; Earl Sweatshirt contributes a stellar verse, as samples of kids swearing are naturally integrated into the song. Faces
certainly marches to the beat of its own drummer, but possesses enough head-bobbing elements to keep it listenable. The steel drum-inspired beat on "Wedding" give it a dream-like nostalgia; coupled with his tongue-in-cheek musings on love, it's unlike any other track on the mixtape. This is what ends up making the whole affair so brilliant, as the versatility is immense. Mac Miller has finally figured out how to take his one-dimensional delivery and make wholly different (and very strong, to boot) tracks that retain a strong sense of identity. The punchline-laden "Rap Diablo" shows that Miller still values his own cleverness, while "Funeral" houses his ruminations on his own death. It's this desperate, grasping-for-a-handhold type of lyricism that shows vulnerability in a genre that sorely needs it, but it is kept in check by Miller's sardonic use of wordplay.
It's hard to say whether or not listeners will take to Faces
. Mac Miller is somewhat of a dirty word in the hip-hop community, but this mixtape marks his movement away from stale, uninspired hip-hop to something that is inventive. The twenty-four tracks that grace this release are all unique, and his jaded perspective make this the most interesting release of the year. The honesty throughout is startling, and it's obvious that Miller lives and breathes to create this music. The drugs and fair-weather friends are just stand-ins until the beat comes in. With beats as good as the one on "Apparitions", I can't say that I blame him. In a world full of disingenuous people, drug addiction, and incisive critics, Miller turns his mind inward and creates a truly original mixtape.