The second record from Pittsburgh’s Mac Miller came from a time of development and innovation. As his career was shaping in 2013 to become one of hip-hop’s bigger influences, Watching Movies With The Sound Off combined his love for music and the ability to divide soundscapes with a single press of the keys. With a Rollie on his arm and an arsenal at his disposal, Miller quickly rose from pop-rapper to experimental artist with 19-tracks.
“Let the money pile, I’ll be running wild. Life’s a motherfuckin’ joke so we fuck around, feel like I do this in my sleep. Literally, I do this in my sleep,” describes Miller on his second track “Avian.” The theme of birds rotates around Watching Movies With The Sound Off as if they were the carriers of this revival through music. The way that Miller can glue the playful piano chords and the synthetic percussion portrays this boundary step that was beginning to show through the sophomore record. One of the hardest workers in music, Miller at this time already had nine previous projects before Watching Movies With The Sound Off would even hit the scene.
Going up against both J. Cole and Kanye West during the same release date of June 18th, 2013, Miller stood up against heavyweights of the industry as the small-town kid. He shows a prolific growth from his previous studio record Blue Slide Park into the more introspective and conscious (or almost unconscious) stylings of Watching Movies With The Sound Off. He performs well with the features of Earl Sweatshirt, Vinny Radio, or Ab-Soul who jumps in on the track “Matches.”
One of the more upbeat and uplifting tracks of Watching Movies With The Sound Off, Miller and Ab-Soul organize like members of the Power Rangers to recap on their up-growing from being the youthful and hopeful, to finally having a spot of land to their name. With a sample of “Twin of Myself” from Black Moth Super Rainbow and an arrangement of snares to coincide; “Matches” sculpts a memorable verse from Miller illustrating, “I was young with ambition, fucked around with these hoes. Never needed permission, went and lived the life that I chose. Premonition type visions, you see the world as it goes. Tell them all what they missing, while I watch it as it unfolds.”
Then as the record hits a musical high point, but emotional low point with “Objects in the Mirror,” a mature Miller reflects on addictions through female personification. He describes more than just pain though, he shows his humanity as it changes in the world around him, “I wish you caught me on a different day when it was easier to be happy.” Almost as if he is channeling this inner sense of contemplation. With a Pharrell writing credit, everything falls into place as a track that can outlive this lifetime and shed a single tear as a seed of memory gets planted.
As the curtain begins to close on Miller’s sophomore release, he ends the adventure with “Claymation,” one of the strongest displays of performance here. His verse is inspiring as it describes, “Been in Cali a little too long, it got me jaded. Hit Japan and I’m Instagramming camera shy samurais, fucking up this Jerm beat, teach you how to vandalize. The bandana Santana tied, the sound amplified screams on Kennywood Steel Phantom rides.” Perfectly wrapping up the record as if it was a triumphant film in a packed cinema. Watching Movies With The Sound Off leaves the listener with a life-changing inspiration as the rows of people stand up, then begin to exit, as Penn Avenue feels quiet again.