Album: Heard It In A Past Life
Artist: Maggie Rogers
Label: Capitol Records
Non-Airable Tracks: 10
Maggie Rogers’ debut album Heard It In A Past Life is the best album of 2019. I know we are only 18 days into the year, but I’m telling you- this is the best album of the year. You may have seen her viral video with Pharrell Williams from her senior year of college or on tour with Haim or Mumford & Sons. Since that video went viral two years ago, Rogers life has been turned upside down, and this album is the story of that change in her life.
The opening track of the album is the single she released last summer, “Give A Little”. This track, with its accompanying firecracker of a music video, is a reintroduction of sorts. If you’ve known Rogers before or if you haven’t this is your first taste of who she is. “If you give a little, get a little / maybe we could get to know each other”, she sings in the chorus. If people are willing to open up to one another on either side of issues, we can make more human connections and understand what people are going through. This is one of five songs Rogers did with Greg Kurstin. While you may not know Kurstin’s name, you definitely know his songs- from “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson to “Hello” by Adele to “This Town” by Niall Horan. He has produced mega pop hits and won Producer of the Year the past two years at the Grammy’s. His touch on Rogers’ songs are nothing short of wonderful.
The next track, “Overnight”, is absolutely incredible. Having first listened to this song on Wednesday night, I can’t get it out of my head, and I’m not complaining. I had to restart the song the second the drums come in, because the snare sounds so crisp, I just had to hear it again. There’s this wobbly synth playing in the background of her clear vocals, which she said online was “glacier and frog samples”. Rogers has used nature samples in her songs before and I am blown away by her creativity. The chorus is catchy, and I can’t wait for the next time it rains so I can go outside and really feel the emotions of this song. The second time we hear the chorus is my favorite though, as there is a chorus “ahh”ing after each line and the Kurstin production of the song feels so full.
“The Knife” starts with a groovy bass line, and some slinky percussion comes in as Maggie starts singing. The arpeggio of the piano at the end of the chorus is stunning, and it culminates into this beautiful mess of arpeggios in the bridge that elevate my feelings to the next level. This song to me is about expressing your emotions with those around you and not being worried about what they’ll think after that spark of emotion gets out of you.
If you haven’t seen that video with Pharrell, I would highly recommend it. She plays him the next track on her album, “Alaska”, and he is speechless. It’s a beautiful introduction of who Maggie is, and I’m glad she decided to include this song on her debut record. She didn’t include every song from her EP, Now That The Light Is Fading, but in her words “this is the song that changed my life. Nearly everything that’s happened in the last 2 years has been an action or reaction related to that singular moment when this song was shared.” I’m so glad she wants to continue sharing it with us.
I’ve been obsessed with “Light On” since it came out last year, and it’s hard for me to sum up how much this song means to me. I feel Maggie Rogers songs in my soul, and when I sing along to her songs, specifically this one, I am drawn to put my hand over my heart because I feel like she has captured it with her words. This song takes a look behind the curtain of sudden celebrities, and the true emotions that she felt in these whirlwind two years. Yes, things were wonderful, but things were also really hard. We as humans tend to put up a front when things seem to be going well and when people in other positions aren’t experiencing the incredible things that we are, so it’s hard to say that things aren’t actually as great as they seem. Rogers captures that feeling we all have, and even though she may have felt uncomfortable sharing it initially, myself and others have found a home in her words and find this song uplifting in the most positive way. I will always leave the light on during times of change, and we know Maggie will too. The week before she played Saturday Night Live, I saw her perform in Phoenix, AZ at the Van Buren. She introduced this song by saying she would be performing it on the SNL stage, and I have never heard an Arizona crowd cheer for so long and so passionately for someone as we did when she told us that. The biggest, most genuine smile erupted on her face and made my heart swell. This song is a must listen. (I implore you to watch this gorgeous live version of the song, you won’t regret it).
“Past Life” is the one song on the record exclusively written and produced by Rogers herself. She wrote the lyrics of every song on this album by herself, but this one feels even more personal than the rest. The song was recorded in one take and it was the last one she recorded for the album. I hear Stevie Nicks as an influence, particularly “Edge of Seventeen”, in the vocal patterns, and “Let It Be” by The Beatles for the piano. Voice accompanies piano, and it’s simple, yet beautiful. “Maybe there’s a past life coming out inside of me”, Rogers sings honestly, and as we make it halfway through the album, we find out where the album title comes from.
I heard the next song on the album, “Say It”, live back in October and have been craving the studio version ever since, and let me tell you, it does not disappoint! The swelling synths bring us into the world of this sexy slow jam, and around 34 seconds in, this ethereal synth line elevates the spacey feelings. My friend described it as feeling like a nebula in space, and I connect with that imagery. A rising bass line brings us into the chorus, and the breathy falsetto of Rogers and the fast beat of the song always makes me dance. In the pre-chorus, she’s telling the person that she “can’t fall in love with” them, but in the chorus, it feels like she’s giving in to those feelings anyway because she “couldn’t say it to myself”. There’s this great snare drum part in the post-chorus that sounds similar to 2-3 clave and I just can’t get enough of it! This might be my favorite track on the album.
I’m so glad “On + Off” was included on Rogers’ full length album. This song has such great energy, and when the percussion comes in I immediately start dancing. Rogers opened with this song when I saw her back in October and it was the perfect way to get the crowd hyped! I love the guitar riff leading into the second chorus; it’s so simple yet so wonderful. It’s a more sensual song about the highs and lows of a relationship in metaphors, and I love that she has a multitude of songs on this record about love in different forms.
Maggie’s “Fallingwater” performance on Saturday Night Live felt life-changing for me, and she said something shifted during that performance. This song has grown on me since it was first released back in May. The song swells and creates this beautiful energy, and first hearing this song live in the light rain in Morrison, Colorado at Red Rocks Amphitheatre felt fitting. About this song, Rogers said “I didn’t know that I could sing like this. Something woke up.” This song is pure emotion, and former Vampire Weekend guitarist Rostam Batmanglij produced the gorgeous full sound and brings out the best in Rogers. The vocals on this song are the best on the album and singing along to it as a fan almost doesn’t do it justice.
I once jokingly called Maggie Rogers an “ethereal moon goddess” and I think “Retrograde” solidifies that title for her. The subtleties in her music are astonishing, from the guitar breaking away from the drum machine in the chorus to a beautiful melody to the subtle clave sound playing on off beats through the second half of the verse and the chorus. Referencing “Bella Donna” by Stevie Nicks, the lyrics tell the story of a breakdown, and how singing this song gets her out of it and past it.
“Burning” was the song on Heard It In A Past Life that I was most looking forward to! When performing this song live, Rogers asks the crowd, “Is anyone out there in love right now?” When part of the crowd cheers in response, she tells them, “I’m super super in love, and I want everybody to know, and that’s what this song is about!” You can see the joy this song, and this person, brings her. The groovy percussion drives this song forward and gets the crowd immediately moving. The song feels upbeat and light and happy, perfectly capturing Rogers’ emotions. “Let me help you open up / I’m in love, I’m alive / oh I’m burning”- the lyrics in the chorus are stunning and I’m in love with her love. Can you imagine if someone wrote a song about you like this? I would die. The guitar that comes in in the second verse sounds Western, and grounds this song in the earth. The breathy “it was you” in the pre-chorus with a kalimba like instrument playing in the background is light and fluffy and stunning. If you thought Maggie wouldn’t be giving us bangers this late in the album, you thought wrong.
Rogers released a stunning documentary for her song “Back In My Body”, and it tells some of the story she experienced over these past two years. A lot of people can relate to a time when they don’t feel like themselves, and Rogers documents what it feels like to feel like yourself again after a long period of time. There’s a marimba in the second verse, and I love the use of non-traditional percussion instruments. I always enjoy seeing how an artist will end their album, and I think this song was the perfect choice as the album closer. It tells a story, in true singer-songwriter fashion, but it shows that this album is a cohesive story of her life and how she feels herself again. The power of music is strong, and she has harnessed so much energy in her narrative. This song tells us that there is so much more to come from her, and I can’t wait to hear it. When she performed this song at Red Rocks, the sun was setting into the horizon, and the crowd naturally pulled out the flashlights on their phones and swayed their hands to the powerful words she was singing. When the song ended, she was smiling so bright and didn’t have words for what had happened in front of her. The humble energy she has is so authentic, and I hope it never goes away as she keeps experiencing success after success.
I want to listen to this album with my friends in parking lots, on late night drives, in the rain, at a party- this album can be experienced anywhere by anyone, and I’m so happy it is finally being shared with the world. 2019 is Maggie Rogers’ year, and she’s just getting started.
Sounds Like: your feelings finally being sung over pop music
(If you already know Maggie’s music)
“Overnight”- crisp snare, nature samples, catchy chorus
“Say It”- swelling synths, breathy vocals
“Burning”- LOVE SONG with beautiful instrumentation
(If you are new to Maggie’s music)
“Alaska”- her first hit (and rightfully so) with falsetto vocals and interesting percussion choices
“Light On”- singer-songwriter vibes
“Give A Little”- dance hall beats with honest lyrics
Reviewer’s Name: Amanda Chesin
Date of Review: 1/18/2019