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Recalling her past life

24-year-old singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers more than lives up to the hype on her long-anticipated debut album

While much has already been discussed about the 2016's viral YouTube video in which super producer Pharrell Williams became visibly in awe of singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers and her demo of Alaska, Williams' organic reaction never gets tiring to watch. It's pure, genuine and far more emotional than any of the today's TV singing competitions could ever hope to elicit. And, thanks to that very video, Rogers has garnered well-deserved attention, amassed a sizeable fanbase, and struck a record deal with Capitol Records -- all in just over a year.

Maggie Rogers, Heard It In A Past Life.

After getting her feet wet with 2017's five-track EP Now That The Light Is Fading, she now returns with her first proper studio full-length, Heard It In A Past Life. Co-produced by Grammy-winning Greg Kurstin (Sia, Adele, Lily Allen), the album contains previously released, early favourites like Alaska and On + Off as well as a handful of new materials written in response to her sudden rise to fame, her experience as a young adult, and the world around her.

The first half of the record sparkles with Kurstin-certified polished pop songcraft, instantly recalling the likes of Taylor Swift, Haim and Kacey Musgraves. Listening to tracks like opener Give A Little, Overnight, The Knife and Light On, it's also evident that her singing style has shifted towards the more pop-oriented direction. The remaining half offers up a nice variety of styles from quirky folktronica à la Alaska to what defies categorisation like Fallingwater.

Having said that, the most cathartic moment here turns out to be something rather conventional, namely the piano ballad Past Life. Set to a sparse production, not only does the track highlight her vocals, it also sums up the album as a whole ("Maybe there's a past life coming out inside of me/ Maybe it's the song I'm singing/ Maybe everything's just turning out how it should be").

  • Quotable lyrics: "'Cause people change overnight/ Things get strange, but I'm alright/ I'm still here, and I'm still high/ And I'll still meet you in the middle of the night" (Overnight).
  • The verdict: Heard It… is a perfect fusion of singer-songwriter sensibility and contemporary pop appeal.
  • Listen to this: Give A Little, Alaska, Fallingwater, Past Life.

THE PLAYLIST

Lana Del Rey / Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have -- But I Have It

Apart from the unequivocally on-brand title, Lana Del Rey's Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have -- But I Have It also heralds her incoming short book of poetry as well as her forthcoming new LP, a follow-up to her 2017's Lust For Life. Compared to its equally sparse predecessors Mariners Apartment Complex and Venice Bitch, the track whose title seems to reference a quote from The Shawshank Redemption doesn't shy away from the slow-burning balladry Del Rey has made her signature since 2011's breakout single Video Games. The only discernible shift here, however, is the way she approaches her lyrics, which is clearly influenced by her poetry writing. "I've been tearing around in my f*cking nightgown 24/7 Sylvia Plath/ Writing in blood on the walls," she rues over crescendo piano chords before taking a thinly-veiled dig at rapper Azealia Banks ("Shaking my ass is the only thing that's/ Got this black narcissist off my back") whom she had a Twitter feud with last year.

Paul McCartney / Get Enough

Has anyone ever thought that they'd live to see the day when one of The Beatles would go absolutely ham at Auto-Tune? Well, us neither and yet here we are. On his latest, Ryan Tedder-produced cut Get Enough, Paul McCartney sings over some nice-sounding piano, which is all fine and dandy until he casually unleashes his inner Cher as if he'd lost a bet to Kanye West. "Do you remember the lights on the shore?/ How they reflected the rain on the road?/ I believed that you love me alone, it was real," he muses, his freakishly distorted vocals repeating the song's title. This is just painful to hear.

Billie Eilish / When I Was Older

Don't get us wrong, though, we can say with a confidence that we're not an Auto-Tune hater. It's just the abuse of it that we're not too keen on. Which brings us to the brilliant use of Auto-Tune on Billie Eilish's When I Was Older, an electronic lullaby inspired by Alfonso Cuarón's stunning film Roma. "When I was older/ I was a sailor on an open sea/ But now I'm underwater/ And my skin is paler than it should ever be," Eilish intones, clearly alluding to one of the climactic moments in the movie. "I'm on my back again/ Dreaming of a time and place ... Like all we ever do is see how far it bends/ Before it breaks in half," she continues in the following verse reminiscent of Imogen Heap's brand of emotive electronica.

Safeplanet / Kord Kwam Jeb Cham (Carry)

"Embrace the bruises/ And disappointment/ Let the tears trickle down/ Allowing the heart heal," sings Safeplanet frontman Alien on the band's most recent single Kord Kwam Jeb Cham (Carry). Like last year's Kam Tob, the song finds the Bangkok indie-pop trio in the more traditional melodic guitar route. This means that, while this may be a crowd pleaser, it's by no means designed to reinvent the wheel.

Garbage, John Doe, Exene Cervenka / Destroying Angels

Dubbed "a murder ballad", Garbage's new single Destroying Angels is a collaborative effort between vocalist Exene Cervenka and bassist John Doe, both a member of 70s American punk outfit X. Musically, this sounds just like it's been described -- a gothic, macabre soundtrack to, well, a murder. "It took an hour to cut her/ From the spot where she was found/ A bright red velvet ribbon/ Was tangled in her gown," Cervenka and Manson sing in unison before Doe joins in for a grisly three-part harmony ("She seemed so pure without a doubt/ 'Til the last red drop leaked out").

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