Maggie Rogers emerges with dynamic debut on “Heard It In A Past Life”

HIIAPL

By MARINA WATERS

Favorites: Burning, Fallingwater, Overnight, Say It

Rating: 8/10

What I’d call it: An electronic dance, folk album that makes you wanna dance but also sit cross-legged on your bedroom floor pouring over the poem-like lyrics.

Maggie Rogers might have heard it in a past life, but she’s created an album unlike anyone else’s in the here and now.

Maybe it was Maggie Rogers’ ability to intertwine fascinating rhythms with thoughtful lyrics that first caught the ear of Pharrell Williams in a master class while Rogers was attending New York University to study music production, or maybe it was her ability to create an album unlike anything saved on your Spotify playlists. But it’s both of those characteristics that make Heard it in a Past Life the most dynamic album of 2019.

Possibly the most noticeable feature of HIIAPL is the way in which Rogers plays with the rhythm. It’s nearly impossible to find a song that keeps to a monotonous rhythm on the album. Songs like “Fallingwater” and “On + Off” both change beats and rhythms throughout but somehow maintain a cohesive sound. And it’s Rogers’ ability to blend these changing rhythms and textures of her songs that really drives the overwhelming emotion found throughout the 12-song record.

The dance track “Burning” is immediately electrifying with the simple lyrics, “I’m in love I’m alive and I’m burning” that pair perfectly with wild drum beats and a myriad of sounds. Meanwhile, on “Back In My Body”, Rogers erupts with battle cry lyrics, “This time I know I’m fighting, / this time I know I’m (back in my body)” as the sound seems to swell and build with intensity.

But Rogers doesn’t stop there with the production details; the debut album also features bright and energetic tracks with full, layered sounds.

Sonically, the songs are complex and include more than your typical guitar parts and syncopated rhythms. Rogers intertwines sounds from nature such as birds chirping on “Burning” and synthesized frog and glacier audio on “Overnight”. Given her experience in music production, it should come as no surprise that Rogers penned numerous production credits on the album. (Not to mention Rogers also played piano, drums, and percussion on HIIAPL as well as having written or co-wrote each song on the album.)

However, Rogers also manages to pair thoughtful, introspective lyrics throughout the album. While songs like the fast-paced love song “Burning” and the optimistic opening track “Give A Little” offer a heavy dose of dance music, words in songs such as “Back In My Body” and “Alaska” embody Rogers’ strength as a songwriter with an ability to pen thoughtful, vulnerable lyrics.

Words like “I knew it when you walked my way / That I’d be begging you to stay / I couldn’t say it to myself / I couldn’t say it to myself” on the R&B tune “Say It” showcase Rogers ability to pen striking lyrics in a Taylor-Swift like way while also proving there is no genre to which she plans to limit herself.

But the mark of a truly great record isn’t just great production or compelling lyrics, it’s both. And this one just happens to blend those two into a story that’s representative of the past two years of Rogers’ life.

The album is full of autobiographical tracks such as “Back In My Body”, which tells of Rogers’ struggles while touring overseas and “Past Life”, a song Rogers wrote alone on her grandmother’s piano back in Maryland and features haunting vocals. Then there’s “Alaska” the song that first rendered the approval of Pharrell Williams. The song paved the way for Rogers’ but remains one of the most vulnerable songs on the album, detailing a trip to Alaska where Rogers said she found herself again.

Though the album offers a glimpse back at Rogers’ life leading up to her meeting with Pharrell and life thereafter, the album overall sounds unlike anything in pop, electronic, folk or any other musical genre in which Rogers delves. HIIAPL seems to do it all from lyrics to production to emotion without sacrificing any of those three characteristics. And though she may have drawn on the past to form this record, it seems she’s only moving ahead with this forward-thinking album.

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Fall Semester Nostalgia.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas trees are popping up all over the place, downtown is covered in twinkling lights strung up throughout its winding streets, and people are wearing fluffy scarves and sipping hot cocoa. It’s magical!

But for students, much like myself, it’s the end of another semester. Professors are sending out those final exam study guides and final class time reminders as we all dream of the weeks to come full of binge watching episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and stuffing your face full of your mom’s Christmas peanut butter fudge (that’s my plan anyway).

And as exciting as a relaxing Christmas break is, there seems to be a bit of sadness in the air at the moment.

I’ve always been one of those people who is terribly nostalgic. So much so that I try to hold on to things as they’re happening. I know, crazy.  I mean, I will actually be at a football game or driving through my hometown with my three best friends and suddenly I’ll realize that I’m going to miss that moment that I’m currently in. That’s when I’ll close my eyes, take a deep breath, and try to soak every bit of my surroundings in. It makes me truly appreciate the wonderful memories I’m in the middle of, but it also just serves as a sort of souvenir for me to look back on when nostalgia hits me full force at a later date. So I can’t say it helps aid my nostalgia, but it helps me remember it in more detail.

And as finals are coming up, Christmas is calling and classes are ending one by one, a slight nostalgia is starting to kick in for me. I find myself thinking back to those first class sessions, watching those East Tennessee autumn leaves begin to cover all of Circle Park, and the football season starting to fill the air just a few months back.

But mostly, I’m starting to already look back on who was a part of the memories I’ve accumulated over the semester.

I must say, I’ve met some amazing people and I’ve certainly met some interesting professors. From Wohlwend with his nit-picky, but very useful writing advice (I’m hoping you’ll eventually forget about the “rick shades” instead of “ricochet” typo. What can I say? I was obviously trying to leave an everlasting impression), to that one so very passionate professor who looks and talks just like Anne Hathaway (you know exactly who I’m talking about if you spent any time in the UTK journalism department), I’ve learned so much about the trade of journalism, writing as a profession, and about people in general.

As for these people, I think I’m already starting to miss them as well. I’ve grown pretty close to some of these people I have class with. I was placed in a group with five other students in one of my classes this semester. We are all so drastically different that I don’t think we would have collaborated otherwise. I find myself defending them when other students throw accusations at their ideas. I find myself laughing with them in class. But mostly, I find myself enjoying my time with them which can only mean one thing—this too will be a time that I will soon miss.

Maybe I’m too nostalgic. Maybe I should think about these memories a bit less. But I think a lot of people can experience something good by soaking in these soon to be memories.

So take mental pictures of the faces of these people you’ve grown close to. Really listen to those meaningful statements sometimes made by our professors (after all, they do actually say important things from time to time). Take in what the room looks like, what you felt, and every bit of anything that made you happy this semester. Allow yourself to do that. I don’t believe you’ll regret it.

So instead of bringing home too much laundry, your useless textbooks from the semester, and a strong desire to do nothing until January 7th, bring home some memories.

But try to only take in the good ones. Because trust me, those things can last a while.

The fire that never dies.

Is it possible to be on a music-high from a concert that took place two and a half weeks ago?

I’ve felt the complete happiness that comes from a combination of overstimulated senses, the lights, the hypnotic drum beat, and the undeniable happiness that comes from being right there in that place. I’ve felt it all before—but this time was more memorable than most shows.

I usually have a certain expectation of what a concert will be like. The happiness you can feel at a concert is kinda like a beach bonfire. It’s fun, not too overwhelmingly hot, but it’s warm enough to keep you very content. However, after a certain amount of time, the sun starts to come back up, beachgoers head back to civilization with sandy feet, the chatter slows to an eventual halt, and finally this beach bonfire is blown out by a salty, nautical breeze—excitement gone. It’s expected. It almost always goes like this.

However a couple weeks ago, I went to one of these beach bonfires that seemed to be like any other, yet somehow seemed different. It even felt different. At this metaphorical bonfire, the wind never came. Time passed, but the wind never took the warmth away. The people might have all gone home, but my spirit for music didn’t. It still hasn’t.

Instead of coming home, it seems my musical spirit has found a new home in the form of a concert that took place two and a half weeks ago.

And I thought I was just going to see a show.

If you know me, you know that I mostly have a thing for country music. Not all country music, but the country songs and artists that have a sort of depth to them. I’m especially a big fan of stripped down, nothing-but-an-artist-and-a-guitar sort of acoustic moments. I also love songs you can stomp your boots to (I’m looking at you, Cadillac Three). There’s something about great guitar riffs , the attitude of a shouting harmonica, and the twang of a country artist that really gets me. I love country.

But this wasn’t a country concert. It was far from it.

Instead, this was a head-banging, rock-fist bearing, metal rock concert that set my world on fire.

The show was at the warehouse of a venue called “The International” near downtown Knoxville a couple weeks ago. This is where I dragged my sister along with me to see the super talented, metal rock band Halestorm. This is where this concert hit me in the way only music can. I’ve felt what I’m about to describe to you before throughout my many concert adventures, but I can’t say I was expecting it here—but those make for the best shows.

I have often felt the intoxicating happiness of feeling a pulsating drum beat that first fills into your ears and goes so much further than that. It starts by rattling your ears in a way that instantly makes you worry for your hearing. But you’re not there to hear.

You’re there to feel.

It then drives through the rest of your body with one goal in mind—to fill the hollow spaces.

It drives straight down to your chest and ricochets through your rib cage like a pinball machine on fire. Then this sound fills every cavity of your body until it finds a home down in the chambers that you didn’t even know existed. But you feel it and it’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before. I think it’s that same feeling you get when you know deep down that you love someone. Or that you love something. It’s here that you know you love this feeling, you love this night, but mostly, you love being.

Being alive in that moment is all you really want. And this sound that ignited this feeling deep in your chest doesn’t rest until you feel it in the hollow spaces of your boots, vibrating through every muscle right down into the very core of who you are. Somehow I think that’s when you know who you are.

I think that’s when you know it’s right. I think that’s how you know what love is. I think that’s how you know that life is alright. It’s hard, sure. There are going to be struggles. And people are going to walk out. But I think that’s okay. Because you can only feel that moment at a show and not much else. Because you aren’t thinking about how scary your future is, or how your best friend wasn’t there when you needed her, or how much goodness you’ve seen disappear from the world, or how stressed out you are over that huge important project that’s due in two days. Those things don’t matter.

Because this fiery happiness fills the cavities of more than just your chest. It fills your heart, your soul, and somehow takes the places of those things that somehow went missing over time.

You’re happy with just being because you felt it.

You felt a brilliant fire burning inside of you and it seemed to have sent your heartache up in flames. And now you know how it feels to feel the warmth of a love all your own.

For me, I find it in music. I find it at concerts and even when I’m in the middle of an essay and the lyrics I’m hearing jump out at me right through the speakers. Wherever it is, I hope you find it. For some of you it might be in art. It might be found in helping people. It might be in practicing medicine or sharing the gospel. It might be found in mending a fence or reporting the news.

But a few weeks ago I was just standing in a crowd full of strangers, captivated by every crazy drum pattern, a screaming rock ‘n roll banshee of a lead singer (who I would write an entire blog post on if I thought I could stop gushing about her), and every carefully crafted lyric that threw gasoline on the flame.

This night set my worries on fire. That fire filled my body with a fiery energy that hasn’t quite left my body.

That night set my world on fire.

And here’s hoping it never goes out.

The Official Marina Waters About Me Section.

The “about me” section for this blog reads: “Journalist at the Herald & Tribune. University of Tennessee alumna. Follower of Jesus. Lover of words and realness. ” Those descriptions sort of sum me up. Simple as that.

But yet, it doesn’t tell you who I really am.

It doesn’t tell you that I use too much ketchup on my burgers. It also doesn’t mention that I am completely obsessed with wood. Wooden chairs, cabins, clocks, no matter what it is, as long as it’s wooden, I’m in. My “about me” doesn’t tell you that I can’t shuffle cards, or that my youngest sister is taller than I am, or that David Nail is my spirit animal, or that I have only re-read one book in my entire life (Stargirl by Jerri Spinelli).

And those slightly embarrassing pieces of Marina Waters trivia, I think, tell a lot about me. They tell as much about me as my “about me” section does. The only difference is it tells a different story.

And that, my dear, new friends, is exactly the kind of stories I want to tell for the rest of my life. I don’t want to tell the stories people expect, or the stories you can get from any other monkey with a type writer. I want to tell stories that matter. I want to tell stories that mean something, even if that something is small, different for different people, or isn’t hit-you-in-the-face obvious.

Because stories are beautiful and I want my stories to be beautiful.

There is a sort of beauty in my “about me”. It’s simple, to the point, and honest. There is something to appreciate about it. But the second one has something different, wouldn’t you say? Don’t you feel like you know me just a bit better after reading that one as compared to how you feel after reading the first one? Maybe not. And that’s okay. We all see beauty in different ways. However, I can only tell stories in a way that I believe is beautiful.

My second “about me” was a bit harder to write. For a second, it challenged me to be more honest. It challenged me to open up to you beautiful strangers just a bit. It challenged me to dig deeper — And I think we all need that in some form. For me, I need my stories and thoughts to challenge me to dig deeper and be a bit more honest than I sometimes am.

There’s a quote by the brilliant philosopher,  Taylor Swift (she might not be a brilliant philosopher, but I thought that qualifier made this following quote sound a bit more credible) that reads: “I’m not that complicated. My complications come out in my songs. All you have to do to be my friend is like me…and listen.”

Back in the day, at the age of 15, that quote hit me like a freight train. How could a girl, who doesn’t know me, and who is only a year or so older than I am, say exactly what my heart was trying to say through music, guitar, and writing?

I’ve grown up since then, but that quote never lost its meaning to me. And that’s the exact power words can have. Even if those words come from someone who changes, their words don’t. It’s like magic.

And that’s what writing is to me; writing is magic. I believe we all have to find that sort of magic in our realities, . Some find magic in science and medicine. Others find magic in fixing cars or computers. I find magic in honest words.

My favorite form of this magic are words that are both honest and beautiful. And that’s what I hope for each of you reading this. I hope you find your honest, beautiful magic.

So friends, (and I sincerely want to be friends with the person behind the eyes reading this), I want to continue this “about me” section. I want to continue it in every blog post starting right here, right now. I want to tell you about my conversation with Jamie Lynn Spears and how she made me believe in the secret depth that exists in certain people. I want to share with you what makes me listen to David Nail songs on repeat for years and what our conversation was like last Spring (and maybe one day I’ll share with you all why he is my beloved spirit animal. (I really wish there was a less creepy way to say that).

I want to tell you about music, but I also want to spontaneously not talk about music and just talk about other things I think are beautiful and real. I want to talk about the beautiful souls I encounter in this life. I want to reminisce with you. I want to talk to you about the human condition.

I want to tell stories.

I want them to mean something.

And if you’ll indulge me, you’ll get to know me. But most importantly, (I hope) you’ll see the beauty in the small details, in the tiniest thoughts, and the words I’ve carefully pieced together.

So this is me. I’m Marina Waters. And I am so very pleased to meet you.

Best,

Marina J. Waters