Watching Movies With The Sound Off, Mac Miller’s sophomore effort found him mentally struggling with the perils of fame. A project with many likeable traits, but it always felt like the musings of an early 20’s man mimicking sadness while taking loads of drugs in the process. Though Miller did have a wildly reported struggle with narcotics, Watching Movies With The Sound Off (WMWTSO) scanned like someone obsessed with the iconoclasm derived from rock star deaths.
GO:OD AM banishes Mac’s tendency to indulge in faux philosophical questioning in place for vibrantly colourful songs that evolve around the idea of the purgatory space between heaven and hell. Good and Bad. The title itself manifests the records intentions – either “GOOD AM” as in good morning, or taking into account the colon, “GO:OD” in the morning – and this of course referring to idea of overdosing on drugs.
He’s realised that the key to living a healthy lifestyle isn’t to be found in regime-like purity but rather through balance. He might stay inside and do a ton of drugs, but also be diligent enough in leave mother Miller with some grandkids. GO:OD AM laments over the blurred intersectional elements between good and bad. There is both an angelic, yet carnal side, and finding the in-between, no matter how difficult, as numerously stated on the record, truly allows one to harness their potential.
“100 Grandkids”, GO:OD AM’s first single brings to mind, Miller’s earlier mix tapes, most especially Best Day Ever, where the sole intention was to uplift the masses. Unlike WMWTSO, he is more concerned with making music that exudes confidence. Here we get forward looking nostalgia, with Mac reminiscing over the first time he made a 100 Grand – “When I first made a hundred grand, thought I was the s**t”. The song then progresses into Drake IYRTITL type bravado; with Big Jerm producing its second half, fronting rattling hi-hats alongside ethereal looped synths.
Tracks like “Brand Name”, “Two Matches” featuring Ab-Soul, and “Rush Hour” largely follow the format and aesthetic of “100 Grand Kids”. Adding little twinkles of lush jazzy production, all culminating into crescendo mannered hook. In fact the chorus to “Brand Name” is reminiscent of KIDS era Mac, with the vocal harmonies of “la-la-la-la” lingering along in the background.
GO:OD AM is Mac’s earlier style of music, synthesized into a much more sleek, well-choreographed production style, nicely packaged for critics and fans alas to fawn over. “Rush Hour” is mostly memorably for its half serious sentiments – “The world don’t give a f**k about your loneliness”. One thing is clear with this record; there are less self-depreciating undertones (Faces, WMWTSO) and more self-proclaiming prophecies as on “Two Matches” – “Ain’t a place too far, Ain’t a dream too big”. Miller through all his turmoil, has managed to find a midpoint approach – combining his newly acquired syllable stacking expertise with the uplifting “you can do anything” lyrical messages that was pushed by his whole movement circa 2010.
“Perfect Circle / God Speed”, especially the latter track, acts as the epilogue to last year’s wormed up drug fest that was Faces. A sombre introspective moment, flipped over a Sounwave produced beat, which etches out the sonic sampling techniques of Late Registration Kanye West, with the rollicking drum rolls provided by the drummer from Toronto based group BADBADNOTGOOD.
It’s a soaring highpoint for the record and seeks to also tie in well, the deeper side to Miller’s “in between heaven and hell” narrative, as it is swiftly contrasted with the opulent ignorance of the record’s next track: “When In Rome” – which emulates the hard-edged masculine alt-trap by Earl Sweatshirt on his songs such as “Wool” alongside Mac’s schizophrenic typical rapper lines about “eating your food and f**king your bitch”.
The fiery energy on “When In Rome” is definitely an improvement and as such a sort of: “I proved you wrong” moment on the album. Critics and fans alike largely accused him of being too monotone while lacking dynamism in his flows, however none of these discrepancies are present on “When In Rome”. “When in Rome” meddles with Tyler the creator’s similar quirky, obnoxious vocal deliveries and cadences, which then consciously edge towards self-conscious rap parodies.
The back end of GO:OD AM, produces a couplet of songs “Ascension”, “Jump” and “The Festival“, so subtle, they require multiple listens to unpack. They veer off the refreshing energetic vibe of the rest of the record, in place of conceptually tight bars, emphasising Mac’s worldview. “Ascension” is littered with numerous religious references which further feed into the records non-binary blurred lines between good and evil.
GO:OD AM intensively seeks to invade all parts of your day. It’s that breath of cold misty fresh air that attacks the street as you step outside during the winter months, the city infested subways, and underground trains while we make our commutes, and the thirsting yearn we have for the weekend. Mac Miller’s GO:OD AM is out now via Warner Bros. Records, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Samuel Aggrey