Maggie Rogers rise to stardom is an interesting one. She’s the product of a viral video but unlike something like the mannequin challenge, it was more to do with the human response to music. Pharrell’s reaction to Alaska when first played it during a mentor session at NYE is what made the video spread like wild fire. He was surprised and moved simultaneously. Here was a university student playing a song that sounded like the work of an established artist, effortlessly meshing together folk and electronica.
Rogers is a trained banjo player and a folk artist first and foremost but you get the feeling had she stuck to that, she wouldn’t be reaching as many people right now. Like so many of us, Rogers had a epiphany while being introduced to dance music in Europe. The culture surrounding electronic music is so infectious. It’s exciting, comfortable and energising, marrying together a club of people more successfully than any other genre on earth.
She came back from Europe and started infusing her folk tunes with electronic elements to make them what they are today. Her debut EP Now That The Light Is Fading is a product of that. At its heart, it’s a folk record but the subtle electronic elements give it rhythm and movement, making it not only more accessible but also more hypnotising.
Opener Color Song gives us straight-up, acapella folk. It’s driven by beautiful harmonies and haunted by crickets in the background. It’s beautiful but the record starts bouncing once Alaska comes on. We’ve all heard it hundreds of times now but everytime those bubbly, elastic beats wander in it sounds fresh again. It’s a song about emancipation and there’s so much freedom held in the lofty feel of the track. “Cut my hair so I could rock back and forth/Without thinking of you,” she sings, shedding weight both literally and metaphorically. Even though there are intricacies in the beat and the harmonies, it comes to our ears with an endearing simplicity and that may be its biggest success.
No song on the EP is as successful as Alaska but unashamed pop track On + Off comes really close. Harnessing that same freeing energy as Alaska, it’s a song shackled by a glitchy beat which it manages to shed for the euphoric chorus. The notion of another place is one that pops up at numerous time on the EP and it’s most prominent here. “Take me to that place where you always go,” she sings here. It’s not necessarily a good place, but it’s a space outside of her head. She wants to tap into the mind of her lover and understand why their relationship keeps flicking on and off.
This EP holds so much promise, but there is a feeling that she’d be far more suited to a long player where there’s more patience for the slower movers. The whimsical Better gets overpowered by its predecessors, something it probably wouldn’t suffer from if it were placed in the middle of a 12 track record. You can even imagine Dog Years succeeding even more as the opener to a record because it’s so full of hope.
With that said, for a debut EP to sound this comfortable and familiar is extraordinary. She’s not the first to successfully combine that organic and the synthetic but the balance between folk and electronica hasn’t been mastered this well in a long time. On top of that she’s an endearing person and a bright lyricist that sucks you into her world without even knowing you’re plunging deep into it. If we had to put our money on one new artist in 2017, we’d have to empty our pockets for Rogers.
Maggie Rogers is part of our Future Class Of 2017. Read her profile here.