Pharrell Williams’ favourite new artist is Maryland’s Maggie Rogers, whose debut EP of lush folktronica will have you in a trance
Last year 22-year-old Maggie Rogers found herself in a rare position for an unsigned artist. There she was, a total unknown, in the middle of a serious swell of industry hype after praise was heaped on her lush folktronica sound by one of the biggest artists in the world. See, Pharrell Williams had casually dropped by New York University to deliver a music masterclass and when he heard Rogers’ track ‘Alaska’ – which features on this fragile yet fulsome EP – he had to hold back the tears. He was moved, and you should be too.
‘Now That The Light Is Fading’ is US musician and producer Rogers’ first extended collection of songs for a major label and it’s a gossamer- light, glorious thing that, over the course of four songs, builds into something approaching pop perfection. Following in the footsteps of Bon Iver, Rogers melds natural and man-made sound, creating soul-stroking emotion in the process.
Opener ‘Color Song’ offers up a decidedly low-key start, with Rogers layering her voice over and over, while field recordings of chirruping birds play out in the distance. It’s simple but stunning, recalling criminally underrated vocal trio Mountain Man, whose only album, 2010’s gorgeous a cappella ‘Made The Harbor’ should be sought out by fans of Rogers, as well as band member Amelia Meath’s current project, organic disco duo Sylvan Esso. Williams’ fave, ‘Alaska’, is up next. Like Haim on a hiking trip, its melancholy melody is at odds with its serious groove. When it comes to sonic textures, Rogers is experimental, but not at the risk of alienating the listener.
This is mainstream but with an artful edge, with wobbly beats, twinkling keys and her signature stacked harmonies gracefully plaited together. ‘Dog Years’ takes her formula to perhaps a slightly too bombastic place, but on the twirling ‘Better’ the EP regains its hypnotic, classy vibe. Rogers’ voice and instrumentation is impressive throughout, but it’s on the production side that she really shines. In an industry where female producers are few and far between, she’s a welcome new talent.