By Zach Hester
In 2016, Maggie Rogers gained fame with “Alaska”, the lead single from her 2017 extended play, Now That the Light Is Fading. At that time, she was blowing up across the Internet with the help of Pharrell Williams. Two years later, Rogers places that same song on her major-label debut album, Heard It in a Past Life, as the 24-year-old singer-songwriter breaks on to the music scene as a signed artist.
This is my first time listening to a Rogers’ record in full. The new album had more of a pop style than I anticipated, and while some of those more pure pop-influenced songs are a bit forgettable, the bright spots on the record outweigh those.
It feels like Rogers is re-introducing herself to listeners after the success of her early works like “Alaska” and her extended play. Songs like “The Knife” and “Retrograde” almost demand to be danced to on the general admission floor of a small venue. That’s just the feeling I get from this singer who reminds me of an upbeat Lana Del Rey.
While I did say that there are some forgettable songs here, tunes like “Say It” just work on so many levels. It’s a mix of perfect pop beats and Rogers’ silky, acoustic vocals. “Past Life” also works in this way. The hard pressed keys of the piano set against the tough lyrics about internally reliving the past cut deep. “On + Off” touches on this as well, musically, not lyrically.
The most well-known song on the record, “Alaska”, still remains Rogers’ best. Maybe it’s because of this song that I can’t seem to be more interested in the poppier beats on the record. The viral sensation that “Alaska” provided three years ago dangles low above Rogers’ budding career as a reminder of the overnight nature that fame can sometimes have.
She further explores this dipping of the toe into the waters of fame in “Light On,” the final single released ahead of the album. Rogers best explanation of what this new life is like comes in the song’s second pre-chorus, “Oh, I couldn’t stop it / Tried to figure it out / But everything kept moving / And the noise got too loud / With everyone around me saying / ‘You should be so happy now’.”
For the better part of the record, Rogers’ expertise in the craft of songwriting takes center stage, especially on songs like “Past Life” and “Alaska.” I think Rogers is at her best when she does acoustic and just expresses herself through the most basic of sounds. I Heard It in a Past Life is a must-listen if you need a pep in your step and need the majority of an album to reach in and pull your heartstrings.
Best Songs: Alaska, Light On, Retrograde