Heard It in a Past Life Album Review
As an overnight Internet sensation, Maggie Rogers didn’t have much control over her rise to fame. Ever since she emerged on the scene in 2016 when a video of Pharell reviewing her song at master class went viral, her life has been in constant movement: touring with Mumford and Sons, releasing an EP (Now That the Light is Fading), and receiving praise from the likes of Lorde and Taylor Swift. With the January release of her debut album, Heard It in a Past Life, Rogers sought to reintroduce herself on her own terms and define her experience during her busy past few years.
Heard It in a Past Life combines already-released songs with unreleased concert favorites with totally new music, giving a true glimpse into the stages of Rogers’s life since she rose to stardom. The album explores Rogers’s initial hesitation to fame, the struggles of leaving her old life behind, relationships fostered as she became noteworthy, and her acceptance of her new life. It’s a stellar continuation of Rogers’s strong storytelling abilities, as well as her extremely unique sound.
The first track, “Give a Little,” perfectly sets the tone for the album as a reintroduction for Rogers- she literally says “if you give a little, get a little, maybe we could get to know each other.” The succeeding songs (“Overnight,” “The Knife,” and “Alaska”) share plenty about Rogers, from broken relationships to regaining a sense of self to understanding and dancing it all off. “Overnight” quickly establishes itself as one of the best songs on the album, exploring the end of relationships and how, despite proof that a person has changed, the desire to hang on. For the most part, it is Rogers’s powerful vocals with a soft pop beat behind it, but the background vocals in the chorus and the bridge add a unique, emotional element to the song.
The next tracks, “Light On” and “Past Life,” look at the changes fame brought to Rogers’s life through two different angles: one dedicated to her new fan following and one dedicated to the “old” life she lived leaving her forever. Although the songs have two distinctly different sounds and views regarding fame, they both perfectly capture the essence of slowly-occurring change. “Past Life” is a great example of Rogers’s vocal chops, with the track being just her powerful vocals and a piano.
“Say It,” “On + Off,” and “Fallingwater” all explore relationships and the struggles of love. “Say It” is certainly a departure from Rogers’s previous tracks; its use of background singers and quiet, repetitive lyrics rather than various syntho-beats and sophisticated lyrics ensure this. Despite this, the different sound works for Rogers and shows a more nuanced side to her music.
“Retrograde” is yet another track dealing with Rogers’s rise to fame, this time through describing a breakdown. The breathy background singers, loud chorus, and never-ceasing multi-layered beat all contribute to the feeling of struggle and frustration the song entails, and give it a freeing tone as well.
The last two songs on the album, “Burning,” and “Back In My Body,” Rogers’s current state. “Burning” is without a doubt one of the best songs on the album; its fun melody, breathy vocals, and upbeat feel make it a great listen, and really give it a “love song” vibe. “Back in My Body” wows as well, as it describes Rogers coming to terms with fame and feeling like herself again. The song is a perfect example of her superior songwriting, as she describes events and places where she didn’t feel like herself, before discussing her new perspective on life.
Altogether, Heard It in a Past Life perfectly captures Rogers’s feelings since her rise to fame, and creates a universal appeal with inclusion of songs about general experiences, whether it be crushing too hard, finding yourself again, or dealing with major life changes. Rogers establishes herself as one of the best indie artists of the moment, from haunting vocals to unique beats to perfectly-crafted lyrics. Her controlled, personal introduction is just as great, if not better than her sudden spiral to fame, and shows that Rogers will not be going away any time soon.