Today’s pop stars grow up fast. Look at Sigrid selling out Brixton Academy without dropping an album, or Troye Sivan, who performed with Taylor Swift last year after she fell in love with his early EP ‘Trxye’. Then there’s Maggie Rogers, a 24-year old singer and producer from rural Maryland, whose rapid rise to fame came she detonated Pharrell Williams’ mind with her starry-eyed, folk-tronica banger ‘Alaska’ at a university masterclass, a video of their encounter – and his amazement at her talent – a viral moment that has now passed into modern pop cultural folklore.
So, Rogers’ major label debut, ‘Heard It In A Past Life’, arrives with massive expectation. She started out playing the banjo in folk circles before what she’s called a “spiritual” experience with dance music during a gap year in Europe changed the way she created music, an awakening that’s felt most keenly in the swelling, euphoric synths of lead single ‘Light On’. Rogers writes empowering, honest songs about falling hopelessly in love, getting your heart broken, discovering your self-worth and picking yourself up off the floor – sometimes all in one night. On ‘Overnight’, we find our hero emotional and wasted, lying on a lover’s porch, before firing her warning shot: “If you lie to me, I’m gone.”
Many of these tracks are rooted in nature. Rogers has a thing for sneaking hidden samples of natural sounds into her songs. The result is an organic, earthy vibe that permeates ‘Alaska’s’ skittering beats and the wind chimes and looped vocals of ‘The Knife’. Rogers builds her songs around instinctive, skeletal clicks, the simple, uncluttered production giving her voice all the space it needs. On ‘Fallingwater’ and ‘Burning’, she’s channelling Florence Welch, and ‘Past Life’ embraces Stevie Nicks’ whimsicality over gentle piano. Yet these influences always feed, not overwhelm, the music.
Much of Rogers’ charm lies in her self-awareness. “A cigarette went and made me sick / Spent another day pretending I was over it,” she sings on closer ‘Back In My Body’, admitting that, as a person, she’s still discovering who she is. When it comes to her artistry, though, she’s in no doubt. Her interaction with Pharrell thrust her into the spotlight, but in the end, only the music will define her. “I’m coming up slowly / I’m high on emotion,” she sings atop stabs of Balearic piano on ‘On + Off’, neatly summing-up her free-spirited intentions. On the intoxicating ‘Heard It In A Past Life’, Rogers sounds in love with art, nature and life itself.