A fun little fact about me is that I always judge an album based on its cover. I need to visualize what the album will be about. If the design is clunky or unappealing, it just doesn’t work for me. When I saw the album art for Maggie Rogers’ debut album, Heard It In A Past Life, I was immediately drawn in. The color palette. The moon in the corner. The airy red cape. The saturated grain of the image. I was all about it.
Upon seeing this album art, I immediately dove into this album. I didn’t know much about Maggie, but after listening to this album on repeat and doing some research, I kind of feel like she’s my best friend. She is so cool and so much of her inspiration for her music is based in nature. This album is her introduction to the world, previously only releasing some singles and a short EP.
To say I love this album is an understatement. It is cohesive and a streamlined journey through the past two years of her life. It tells a story and dives into so many moments that we feel when we are experiencing the emotion of love. It explores having a crush that you don’t want to have, loving someone else and even finding clarity in yourself.
Track by Track
Heard It In A Past Life opens with a song called Give A Little. This track is a perfect opening to the adventure in which Maggie is about to embark on. This song is about a fresh start or an opportunity to introduce yourself to someone. The upbeat tempo and bouncy nature of the song encapsulates the ability of the hope that is present when you are first getting to know a person. This song is the perfect jam to blast in your car while rolling the windows down. It is a great start to the album and allows Maggie to introduce herself to the listener.
The second track on this album is titled Overnight. In this song, Maggie revisits a past relationship and she grapples with how she feels about this person. This struggle of not knowing how to feel about someone is something that I know I have dealt with. As time passes, we wonder how that particular person has changed and how they think of us. This song is still pretty upbeat, similar to the previous track, and continues the flow of this journey into Maggie’s emotions.
Next up is a song called The Knife. This is a dance song all about dancing off our problems in life with our close friends. It has a chill vibe but is still upbeat so you can still dance to it. The rhythm has some syncopation to it which makes the song pop a bit. This is the song to play when you just want to dance all of your worries away on a Saturday night. The production is beautiful and this song is a certified bop.
The fourth song on this album is Maggie’s hit, Alaska. This song already had a viral moment a couple of years ago when a video of Maggie playing this song for Pharrell went viral on YouTube. He was speechless and said he had no notes for her. This song is so unapologetically unique and it gives a pretty straight forward idea of who Maggie Rogers is. It’s a song about finding beauty and peace in nature and is the song that put Maggie on the charts. Maggie has said that she feels like this song is bigger than herself and that it kind of found her. Like she heard it in a past life.
The next track is a mid-tempo bop called Light On. This song was the final one written for the album and explores Maggie’s fear of popularity. Fame isn’t something that she really wanted and along with her success has come one of the most anxiety filled times of her life. The song is all about being ready for whatever comes your way and embracing the things that make us uncomfortable. This song has some more folk elements than the others thus far and even though you can move and groove to it, there is a deeper meaning behind it that most people can relate to.
The moment that Past Life began, I closed my eyes and was sucked into the melancholy vibe of this track. Maggie wrote this song at her Grandmother’s piano and it is all about revisiting a place that you are familiar with. This song is beautiful and dark and provides a big part of the inspiration for the title of this album. However, some of the melodies are slightly bland which knocks it down a few pegs. The vocals are lovely and I’m sure the song means a lot to Maggie, but this is not the most memorable track on the album in my opinion.
Say It is the next song on the album and I think everyone can relate to this song. It is all about having a crush and the sparkly, bubbly feeling of liking someone but not wanting to fall into their orbit. I am a sucker for a good crush song and let me tell you, this is it. It also touches on not being able to admit some things to yourself. Not wanting to admit to yourself that you like someone. Not being able to admit that they might not like you as much as you like them. This song is soothing, relatable and one of my favorites on the album.
The next song is titled On + Off and it is all about a relationship that goes back and forth but always feels better when you are with the person. The instability of this relationship is draining but always seems to be worth it to Maggie. This song is catchy and fairly uptempo but is a little too repetitive in my opinion. I really enjoy this track and I think it really connects well with the previous song on this album. It is almost like a continuation of Say It.
Fallingwater is the ninth song on this album and is Maggie’s most stunning performance vocally. This song has a powerful message and is all about doing things that you didn’t know you were capable of. Fallingwater is strong, memorable and gets stuck in my head very easily. It really shows off Maggie’s ability to put her emotions into her music. This song is a masterpiece and her vocals are strong, meticulous and show off her impressive range. I love this track and it is one of the best on the album.
The tenth song on this LP is titled Retrograde. This song is about a breakdown, as Maggie calls it. I love the background vocals on this track, though at times the production is a bit intense for me. It is still a bop and I really love the themes about feeling out of control and just letting yourself go off the rails. Maggie’s vocals are fire throughout this track and it is a great song to listen to and to use to let your feelings out.
The next song on this album is called Burning and it is a song simply about being in love. The energy and rhythm of this song makes me want to dance and I really like the vibe. The only downside to this track is that the lyrics are a bit too repetitive for my taste. Maggie doesn’t go as deep as I want her to go and I feel it lacks the depth that is needed. Even though the lyrical content kind of flops, the song has a kind of contagious energy which I adore dancing to.
Something you should know about me is that I always have the highest expectations for the final track on an album. This song needs to sum up the album and bring us to an appropriate close. It should be an unforgettable song and tie the album together with a bright red bow. Back In My Body is the final song of this album and it does exactly what it needs to. This song is one of my favorites on this album and it explains that life is full of emotions but you will always have yourself to come home to. The production is light and beautiful while the backup vocals were recorded perfectly. The imagery of this song transports you to London, Paris and into the poetic mind of Maggie Rogers. It is the perfect ending to an album full of emotional highs and lows. I love this song and I am so glad that Maggie decided to choose it as the closing track.
And so our journey through Maggie Rogers’ Heard It In A Past Life comes to a close. I really love this album and have spent time diving into interviews and articles about it. Releasing a debut album is always a big moment for an artist and I am happy that Maggie has received so much attention for this project.
The Negative: This album isn’t perfect and I have a couple of problems with it. The first is that some of the production on this project is too heavy and clunky. After watching some live acoustic performances, some of the songs would have been better if they were stripped back a bit. A perfect example is Fallingwater. Maggie performed it on SNL and the live performance was much stronger vocally and instrumentally (even though I love the recorded version as well). I also wish Maggie would have given more detailed lyrics and dug a little bit more into the emotions she feels. When she talks about being in specific places in tracks such as Back In My Body, it adds to the specificity of the song and sucks me in. I wish Maggie would’ve added more of these details.
The Positive: This album is one of the most cohesive albums I have ever heard. This is a little weird, but every song on this album sounds like the cover art looks. It makes me want to dress up in a cute outfit and walk around town or in the woods with my airpods in. There are so many good dance songs and I really like Maggie’s vibe. It’s pop. It’s alternative. It’s indie. It’s folksy. It’s everything you could want. It’s a great album to listen to while doing homework and it is great in the car. I urge you to check out this album so that you can experience the vibe that I am talking about. Once again, I judged an album off the cover and I was correct in my assumption that this album would be a winner.
My Favorite Songs: Give A Little, Alaska, Say It, Fallingwater, Back In My Body.