Despite first finding inspiration for ‘Surrender’ while living on the coast of Maine in the peak of the pandemic, Maggie Rogers shaped her second album in the image of New York. One of the most romanticised cities in the world – and the place where the Grammy-nominated star’s musical career kicked off – it possesses its own special energy. It’s relentlessly tough and overwhelmingly claustrophobic, fuelled by the burning passion of people who come to see if they can really “make it anywhere”, and thrumming with a magical feeling that almost anything is possible if you just give yourself over to whatever forces are at play in the city’s streets.
All of that intensity, fire and spark is encapsulated in ‘Surrender’, a record that feels like an explosion of urgency and joy. Like New York begs of you, Rogers gives herself wholeheartedly to the songs on it and, within the lyrics, to those she’s singing to. “Boulders turn into sand / Wherever you go, that’s where I am,” she promises on ‘That’s Where I Am’. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you,” she adds later on the more subdued ‘Symphony’.
The follow-up to 2019’s ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ is nothing short of electrifying, whether its creator is singing about the kind of fervent lust that threatens to drive you crazy on the driving buzz of ‘Want Want’ or wrapping things up with the epic climax of ‘Different Kind Of World’, which bursts into life after its acoustic beginnings, shading the album’s ending in desperation and haste. That bolt burns brightest on ‘Shatter’, a retro-futuristic piece of fizzing new wave (complete with Florence Welch on tambourine) that begins with Rogers declaring: “I don’t really care if it nearly kills me / I’d give you the world if you asked me to / I could break a glass just to watch it shatter / I’d do anything just to feel with you.”
But where it gets truly invigorating is when she enters an almost stream-of-conscious exorcism of all her anxieties, fears and tense observations of the world. “I know there’s people everywhere with injustice on their lips / And there’s this open wound bleeding between my hips / And I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared,” she sings, as if she’s trying to hold back an almighty scream from the depths of her soul. It’s a brilliant, incredibly vital piece of songwriting and one of the most powerful things Rogers has made so far in her career.
Perhaps ‘Shatter’ is almost too powerful. Once it’s over, the rest of the album feels much more muted – still pretty, still pleasant, still thought-provoking, but like the energy that came before has been spent. ‘Begging For Rain’ plods along, while ‘Honey’ sparkles with big synths and a big chorus hook, but lacks the spark to make something memorable.
In truth, though, that’s just like New York – it puts you through the wringer and then unceremoniously spits you out to pick up the pieces. Unlike life in the city, Rogers’ second album is much easier and more desirable to put yourself through the process again and again; a mostly crucial and enriching next step.
- Release date: July 29
- Record label: Capitol Records