One of the undisputed highlights of Electric Picnic 2018 was the performance by American singer/songwriter Maggie Rogers. For the forty-five minute set on the Saturday, Rogers provided the packed out tent with a demonstration as to why she was considered one of the most promising new acts in global music.
What made the story of Margaret Debay Rogers so interesting was how her initial breakthrough actually happened. In 2016, esteemed music producer and artist, Pharrell Williams visited NYU Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music to conduct a songwriting masterclass, at which Rogers played him her track Alaska, which she had written in fifteen minutes specifically for the visit. The reaction of Williams went viral and resulted in the song reaching a much broader audience than it had previously, and it was through this song that I was first introduced to Maggie Rogers.
Over the next few years, the music of Rogers continued to gain traction, and as a result of the hype that she was managing to generate through her fantastic live shows and the string of well-received singles, there was a lot of attention being paid to when Maggie Rogers would finally furnish us with her debut album. Heard It In A Past Life would eventually reach our years in early 2019, and would be the perfect culmination of everything that had come before.
This is a delightful album, a statement by a songwriter who is truly beginning to find her sound and the direction that she wants to take in her career. Maggie Rogers has an innate ability to create synth and electronic songs that somehow still manage to be the emotion and storytelling at the centre of the song rather than having them drowned out. At different times through the record, the listener is invited to dance and lose themselves to the instrumentation and soundscape being created by the twenty-four year old artist, while at other times it is clear that we are being given insight into some incredibly personal details from Roger’s life. These changes in atmosphere and feel serve for a compelling listen, as well as keeping the record fresh and interesting.
The album opens with the massively successful single, Give A Little, a upbeat synth driven track about making sure that the workload is being carried evenly in a relationship. This single stood out when it was released as listeners immediately got the sense that we were listening to an artist who was attempting to step outside the usual themes of pop music and do something truly unique.
This sense of striving for something that isn’t being replicated and regurgitated by every act on the radio is evident across all the tracklist. Although still at the very early stages of her career, there is a sense of clear direction and thought on these songs, signified on songs like The Knife, On + Off, Burning, and Fallingwater, among others.
There is also moments of proper emotion on this record and one of the more touching moments on the album comes in the form of the beautiful piano ballad, Past Life. In contrast with the rest of the album, this is where we see Roger’s outstanding vocal ability accompanied only by a piano. It ultimately makes for a compelling listen, as we are given an articulation of the fears we all have as we move on to another chapter of our lives.
Given the level of excitement and enthusiasm that greeted this album’s release, it could so easily have left fans disappointed and expecting more, but we need not have worried. Heard It In A Past Life heralded the arrived of Maggie Rogers as one of the true hard hitters in pop music at the moment. Long may it continue.