After witnessing Maggie Rogers’ vibrant performance supporting Mumford and Sons on their Delta Tour back in November, I was excited about how imminent the release of her debut album was. Heard It in a Past Life does not disappoint. The album, which came out on 18th January 2019, features both new tracks and a couple from her 2017 EP Now That The Light Is Fading. The 24-year-old Maryland native combines aspects of folk, electronic, pop and dance music to create an album about “being really present, and vulnerable, and uncensored.”
We begin with ‘Give A Little’: an energetic and strongly rhythmic pop track. It is a departure from the folk-inspired sound that we are used to, but nonetheless, it is a promising start to the album. ‘Overnight’ and ‘The Knife’ both carry on a similarly strong beat and catchy chorus. The polished sound makes these tracks likeable, but it’s good to return to familiar territory for the next song.
The sudden drop in tempo brings us to ‘Alaska’, and the Maggie Rogers that many of us first encountered. In June 2016 a video blew up online of Pharrell Williams’ reaction to an unfinished version of what would become ‘Alaska’. Williams, then an Artist in Residence for New York University, had been invited in to give a masterclass and to hear some of the students’ song writing. On hearing the singer-songwriter’s song, Williams is quite clearly blown away, later remarking: “I’ve never heard anyone like you before.” The song appears on countless Spotify playlists for a reason; the laid back, folk-inspired vibe makes this essential listening.
‘Light On’, a single written for her fans about the past two years of her life, is a stand out track: from the vivacious, anthemic sound that gradually builds, to the intensity of the second “you should be so happy now”, to the strong, resolute “I’m still dancing at the end of the day”. The first song Rogers wrote for the album was ‘Past Life’, a slower paced, pared back piano ballad. It is reminiscent of Lorde’s ‘Liability’ in style, but is much gentler and more controlled. ‘Say It’ and ‘On + Off’ make for easy listening with their synthesised elements and layered vocals.
‘Light On’ is a stand out track with a vivacious anthemic sound
‘Fallingwater’, a song Rogers describes as being about “giving everything and not knowing if it’s enough,” showcases her soaring, ethereal vocals and incredible range. It is both bold and emotional, strong and vulnerable: pure brilliance. ’Retrograde’ is another upbeat track, although it is not one of the more memorable ones. The penultimate track ‘Burning’, which has a similar energy to Florence and the Machine’s ‘Shake It Out’ as it approaches the chorus, comes at you with such exuberance and warmth that you just can’t help but want to get up and dance. ‘Back In My Body’ brings the album to a strong close with on-point lyrics and vocals.
‘Fallingwater’ showcases her soaring, ethereal vocals and incredible range
Overall, I am impressed by Heard It In A Past Life. It exudes confidence, but also sensitivity; listening to it you can’t help but feel that Maggie Rogers knows who she is as an artist. It is clear that this album solidifies Rogers as not just one to watch in 2019, but well into the future. It will be interesting to see what she does next.