a prologue and liner notes for ‘folklore circles’ (mac miller vs. taylor swift)

charlie kubal
5 min readJan 29, 2021

a quick intro, then the liner notes for a 16-track album, ‘folklore circles, that pairs taylor swift’s folklore with mac miller’s circles and swimming albums posted below the art. available 1.29.21 as a free download / pay-what-you-want, with proceeds to the mac miller fund.

(this is just) the prologue

hi. hey. hello. how are you?

I make music by finding artists I like, taking snippets from their songs, and putting them together with other songs to make new music. It’s usually hip hop vocals over the top of indie rock, pop, or electronic, but the only real rule I have for it is that I have to like it and still be proud of it a week later when the recency bias wears off.

It’s been about a decade since I released my first record, which was definitely the most successful — it was a record of The Notorious B.I.G.’s vocals mixed with The xx’s debut self-titled album, and was called the notorious xx. Since then I’ve released a steady stream of material: two more albums, two mixtapes, and six EPs. Sometimes I’ve gotten paid to travel to various spots around the world to play music I made in my bedroom, which was very unexpected and still feels really cool.

It’s been three years since I released a project, and writing that feels dangerously close to the trope of the blogger who starts each entry in his livejournal with an awkwardly lengthy apology for the time in between posts. This kind of humblebrag that pretends as if people were furiously refreshing the page every day. I think the modern version of that is the micro-influencer who begins each video with “so a lot of you all have been asking me about…”, to which I always wonder: who are these people that are always asking these questions? I’ve never once thought to ask a micro-influencer a question, much less one that reams of people besieged them with.

But I digress. Three years since the last project. No apologies here because I assume you were living your life just like I was living mine, and you probably weren’t giving any thought about whether there was any wait what music coming. So here’s a nice surprise then! I’ve got a new album. I think it’s pretty good and I’m excited to release it. It’s called folklore circles and pairs Taylor Swift’s folklore with Mac Miller’s Circles and Swimming albums. It’s a free download/pay-what-you-want, with profits going to the Mac Miller Fund to support young musicians. You can listen to it and read the liner notes below.

stream links: bandcamp | audiomack | datpiff

wait what — folklore circles, front and back cover

folklore circles liner notes

what a strange time to be making music. what a strange time, really, to be doing anything at all.

the day folklore came out, my sister was visiting, and we listened to the album straight through. it feels rare for an artist as talented as taylor swift to have the creative freedom to make an album free of the frills of label involvement, songwriting edits, and demands for singles (or at least the well-crafted appearance of those absences). folklore sounds like she’s let you into her imagination, an invented world she’s guiding you through and introducing you to characters throughout.

this kind of worldbuilding in music feels most cohesive to me when it’s the product of an artist with an intensity and intentionality of vision. mac miller’s swimming and circles albums are a really special brand of creating that landscape from the outset. when swimming came out, I was flying to berlin and listening to it on repeat, bleary-eyed by the time I landed. I remember thinking how wild a ride it had been since I started listening to him. and then, a month later the ride was over.

mac miller’s death felt surreal to me then and it still does now. I first heard him summer 2010, when he was eighteen and recording music videos with his friends. he had this undeniable charisma and exuded the kind of raw joyful energy that comes from making music with your friends. his eight-year journey as an artist feels like multiple careers’ worth of progressions — some of his projects sound like they were made by completely different people, and swimming felt like this incredible artistic reinvention. and then circles served as this kind of perfect companion, filling in with more optimism: even in struggling, he’s still an idealist.

I hadn’t realized it before embarking on this project, but taylor swift and mac miller share more in common than I’d realized. born about two years apart on either side of pennsylvania, each achieved initial fame as late teenagers, dabbled across genres, and amassed rabid fanbases on meteoric rises to fame. but the string that tied them together for me wasn’t biographical, rather, each record felt like they were worldbuilding. they both bring you into a constructed world, narrating the tensions, the unmet ideals, the occasional bad behavior by ostensibly good people. the feeling I got from each of these records was what tied them together initially, and then spent a lot of time exploring that throughout the course of the album.

I had a lot of fun finding the overlaps in emotions and sentiments, melodies and cadences between these tracks, and I hope you enjoy this record as much as I enjoyed making it. stay safe out there and wear your mask.

- charlie (wait what)

thanks to my friends who listened to tracks, been wonderful people, and helped keep me sane throughout the last year (and many long before that): Mom, Dad, Ramsay, Alex, Josh, Chels, Brandon, Parker, Cal, Marie, Ramon, Nate C, Dylan, Kate, David, Shawna, Lexie, Andrew, Ami, Mux, Meg, Viktor, Shae, Alex, Will, Emmie, Rosen, Constance, David, Adi, Zack, Kate, Nate, ST, Jenelle, Roger, Steph, Harry, Kalina, Michele, Steven, Gina, Nik, Wadams, Carly, Mark, Ed, Emily, Jesse, Nihar, Viv, Sunita, Shane, Nic, Matt, pod club, sports + stuff.

folklore circles promotional release poster



charlie kubal

design products, read books, and make music. think a lot about how our thinking shapes the internet and the internet shapes our thinking.