- 31 Jan 19
Hotly anticipated album from Pharrell-approved singer
Maggie Rogers shot to attention when one of her songs, ‘Alaska’, was played to Pharrell Williams during a masterclass at New York University, with the video of Williams’ reaction going viral. The surprising news, however, is probably that Heard It In A Past Life is Rogers’ third long-player: the singer previously released two folky-banjo-driven albums as a student, before a spiritual experience with dance music during a semester in France became a eureka moment for the Maryland multi-instrumentalist.
Rogers still writes old-fashioned songs, which given another production sheen could trouble Nashville’s front ranks – but she has substituted the folk for a beat-driven dance-pop approach, which is sure to take her tunes to a worldwide audience. The patronage of Pharrell won’t hurt either, mind you.
There are echoes of her past life in the folky coda at the end of the bittersweet ‘Light On’, and the countrified lilt of her vocal on the piano-driven ‘Past Life’, where Rogers proves she can switch keys with all the aplomb of a diva. ‘Give A Little’ is pristine, toe-tapping pop, extremely catchy and infectious, but with more substance than a lot of her contemporaries can muster. This is chiefly thanks to Rogers’ traditional songwriting background, which has given her a deft sense of structure and melody.
The sinuous pop of ‘Overnight’ is notable for Rogers’ breathy vocal, as she delivers a wordy plea to hanging in there when a relationship gets tough: “Although I still know exactly how this ends/ I keep holding on/ Cos people change overnight.” The fluid bassline on ‘The Knife’ is equally as right for the dancefloor as the bedsit, and sees Rogers displaying the kind of leftfield pop chops that rocketed Lykke Li to fame. ‘Say It’, meanwhile, boasts a soulful vocal reminiscent of prime time Motown, and the strident ‘Burning’ finds the singer at her most confident.
‘Fallingwater’ is all funky rhythms and minor chords, with elements of country and gospel in the mix: it was co-written with Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of Vampire Weekend. Her main collaborator on this album, however, is Grammy-winning producer Greg Kurstin, whose previous credits read like a who’s who of the music industry, ranging from Pink to Paul McCartney, Adele to Foo Fighters.
Elsewhere, the closing ‘Back In My Body’ definitively proves there’s more to Rogers than straightforward pop. It’s a magnificent piece of songwriting, narrating a breakdown, as Rogers turns a perceived fragility into a strong statement of empowerment that could give Florence Welch a run for her money.
Thanks to Rogers’ ability to craft catchy yet intelligent pop, this listener fully expects her to be one of the breakout successes of 2019. Watch her fly…