Maggie Rogers isn’t an artist in a hurry. She doesn’t have to be. When you’re making music as pure as what occurs on Heard It in a Past Life, you can take as long as you need; the music listening public will wait for you. In saying that, it feels like Heard It in a Past Life has been the slowest coming release for all eternity. Sure, I don’t really listen to Tool, but ever since I first saw that video of Pharrell crying over Rogers’ track “Alaska”, well, I’ve been waiting for this album. And guess what? It’s worth the wait. (I just looked back to see when that Pharrell ‘discovery’ video was released. Maybe 2016 wasn’t all that long ago).
It’s something that probably doesn’t need to be said, but Maggie Rogers is one of those artists that seemingly doesn’t feel the need to follow the trend, or bow to the demands of industry pressure or stereotypes. I’ve watched a fair bit of Youtube while listening to Heard It in a Past Life in an attempt to understand Rogers just that little bit more. And the one overarching take that I’m going to acknowledge in this article is that Maggie Rogers is unapologetically herself. She is honest and true. There is no facade to her persona. What she’s putting out for all to see is seemingly what even her closest friends see. And without knowing her beyond those Youtube videos, it seems that Heard It in a Past Life is Maggie in her most true form.
Coming in at 12 tracks and 45 minutes long, it’s evident that even in the past three years, Rogers’ sound has evolved from an almost acoustic, bare bones approach (“Alaska”) to a more full and euphoric experience (“Burning”). This evolution has not only made Rogers more appealing to a wider audience, but has given her a greater opportunity to expand on what she is offering, not only to herself, but also the music industry en masse. Too often musicians release something that sounds ground-breaking and cutting edge as their breakout moment, but as soon as they sign with a major label, their music becomes retrained and their output is controlled and dulled. Not in this instance. It appears that even on a major label, Maggie Rogers has found new ways to expand her talents as a musician and continues to push boundaries.
With half the tracks on the album already available to listen to prior to its release, it gave a fair indication of what you were to expect on the album. And while that is true in some respects, the unreleased tracks seemingly show another side to what Rogers has to offer. The previously mentioned “Burning” is a downright banger, with its chorus providing one of the most joyous moments of music you may hear in 2019 (big call I know). It has that festival ready, stadium sized feel to it; something that definitely wouldn’t be out of place on a main stage in front of 20,000 people. “Back In My Body” soars in its chorus and will without a doubt fit perfectly as a closer within a live setting. A song of self-re-discovery, “Back In My Body” is a reaffirmation that even in times of reflection and doubt, there is going to be a time where you’ll be back better than ever. It might not seem like much, but songs like “Back In My Body” will always have a place in popular music. Add to that the delicate guitar licks in the second half of the song, and you’ve got a song that’s near unbeatable.
Overall, Heard It in a Past Life is a fun listen. The bounce when matched with its delivery and chorus harmonies in “Give A Little” has a definite Haim feel to it; which isn’t all that surprising considering Rogers and the Haim sisters have toured together in the past twelve months. A song about wanting people to be open with you, “Give a Little” has that downbeat dance floor vibe to it. “Overnight” goes a little more synth-y, and despite being about a more serious topic of trust (or lack thereof), still has a curious vulnerability to it.
If Heard It in a Past Life were to have an absolute stand out moment, it almost definitely comes in the shape of “Light On” and “Fallingwater”. From the gospel tones of “Fallingwater” to the sincerity and hope discovered on “Light On”, these two tracks are Heard It in a Past Life at its peak. One thing you notice about the album is that while the tracks have definite fundamental similarities to one another, there are intricate differences that help accentuate the individuality of each of the songs. I guess this could come down to the varied producers used throughout the recording process. With eight producers featuring at some point during the album (including Rogers, Greg Kurstin and former Vampire Weekend multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij), having such a varied level of interaction between artist and producer could normally lead to an uneven sound. And yes, while some parts are a little stronger than others, overall, this variety works in favour of the release.
Heard It in a Past Life’s strength comes as a result of Rogers and the time she’s taken to put these tracks together. It is joyous and clean; heartfelt and emotive. It’s subtle in its heartbreak, and obvious in its intention. Had Maggie Rogers rushed into the album, there’s every chance we wouldn’t be hearing what we are. The stories might be the same, but the execution would be entirely different. Maggie Rogers has done well to not dive in head first; by dangling her feet in, she has rewarded her fans with an album that’s sure to make a splash. (not even sorry about the sudden water theme).
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Heard It in a Past Life is out now.
Maggie Rogers is touring Australia on the following dates:
Tuesday 21 May – Astor Theatre, Perth
Thursday 23 May – The Forum, Melbourne
Saturday 25 May – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Thursday 30 May – The Tivoli, Brisbane
For more details head to https://www.maggierogers.com/