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Maggie Rogers - Surrender (Album Review)

Tuesday, 02 August 2022 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: S. Holden Jaffe

Maggie Rogers’ second album sees the recent Harvard Divinity School masters graduate expand upon the success of 2019’s ‘Heard it in a Past Life’. It delivers 12 powerful pop tracks that will easily fill the arena-sized venues in which she now plays.

The 28-year-old Marylander has had a remarkable few years—after her performance of Alaska to Pharrel Williams went viral, she signed a deal with Capitol Records and has been on a thrilling ascent ever since. ‘Surrender’ confirms Rogers’ capabilities while not quite sending her into the stratosphere.

Standout moments include the excellent That’s Where I Am, a pop ballad built out of synthesised vocal fragments, smashy drums and textured lyrics.

It’s an earworm that recalls Fiona Apple alongside the strangely forgotten 2000s pop star Natasha Bedingfield. It's good but not that good, with a hugely attention grabbing introduction that is developed into a pretty off-the-shelf pop song, and production that sounds a bit dated.

This feeling is continued on Want Want, an angsty rocker that could easily soundtrack the finale to a teen fiction movie franchise. Here the reference points are also unmistakable: it features a falsetto motif that seems pinched from Alanis Morisette and the grungy juggernaut chug recalls Björk’s Army of Me. These are all fantastic influences, but there is a sneaking suspicion that those artists covered these bases with more originality, integrity and, in Björk’s case, innovation.

It’s strange—there are many production ‘sounds’ or mini-genres that have been revisited from 20-30 years ago with great success. Beyoncé is currently demonstrating this with a 1990s club hit while The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights—a 1980s synth pastiche—was one of the world’s most streamed songs last year.

The problem with ‘Surrender’ is that too often the production sounds are not quite redolent of a distinctive musical or cultural moment. As such, they just sound played out and a bit basic, despite the professionalism of everyone involved. It feels like a small point, but listening to this otherwise excellent album, the feeling that you could be listening to something more authentic and current never goes away.

Maggie Rogers Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon October 31 2022 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Tue November 01 2022 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Wed November 02 2022 - DUBLIN 3Olympia Theatre
Fri November 04 2022 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Sat November 05 2022 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Mon November 07 2022 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Tue November 08 2022 - BRIGHTON Brighton Dome Concert Hall
Thu November 10 2022 - LONDON Alexandra Palace

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