Indie pop’s rising star sings about the journey through her world morphing around increasing fame on Heard It in a Past Life. Maggie Rogers’ melodic voice enchants many of the album’s tracks, while tranquil sounds retain the style that garnered her instant potential in a viral video from 2016. The soft indie pop style shouldn’t come as a surprise: the production is wonderfully backed by Greg Kurstin, who’s contributed to adult contemporary works like Adele’s 25.
Rogers is known more for the mellow nature of her music than roof-raising anthems, but her debut begins with the vibrant “Give a Little”. The songwriter details mankind’s divisiveness preceding one of the album’s most memorable hooks. The LP also includes a pair of songs from her 2017 EP Now That the Light Is Fading, including the one that made her a viral hit, “Alaska”. Despite being more than 2 years old, its serene, folksy sound and gentle vocals earn its place as Rogers’ flagship tune. The other from that prior release, “On + Off”, brought Rogers more towards the border of art pop with its whimsical hook.
When the 24-year-old went viral after Pharrell Williams praised her song at an NYU masterclass session, her transition into the limelight began. “Light On” channels the overwhelming process of an unknown aware of the world she was leaving behind. Her singing hits an emotional point when she quotes peers demanding she “should be so happy now” with a wailing vocal crack as though she’s fighting to hold back tears. This is a major theme from artists as young as the Maryland singer/songwriter, so the LP isn’t exactly lyrically original. Regardless, more of the whirling synths also help win over the track.
The cleverness of the record’s title is embraced thanks to the piano-driven “Past Life”. Rogers knows she isn’t the same woman from before she was a name, and the tracklist reflects on her shift from the “past life”, a term that even matches with the spiritual tone sonically.
“Fallingwater” adds more of the nature references prevalent across Rogers’ words. She logs troubles from her rapid jump from college student to pop star by announcing “And now I’m in the creek/And it’s getting harder/I’m like falling water”. It’s lyrics like this that drive the narrative, and her songwriting is more poetic than practical. That’s not entirely a bad thing, but the tale of this artist admitting her naivety could’ve been further developed. The clangy percussion here and on tracks like “Burning” and “The Knife” complement the elsewhere lo-fi noises nicely.
Rogers has some smart lyric drops here and there, but it’s clear her warming vocals and smooth instrumentation guide the debut. Her music has steadily gotten more poppy ever since “Alaska”, but Heard It in a Past Life successfully slides into the indie pop canon.
SCAD Radio rates it an 8.3/10.