A stunning debut EP that is hopefully just a taste of what is to come from one of the most exciting new artists of the last few years.
It’s impossible to forget about the NYU Masterclass that left Pharrell Williams speechless when thinking about Maggie Rogers, and with the ‘Alaska’-fuelled success that followed came huge pressure to deliver on her debut record as a signed artist. Fortunately, with Now That the Light Is Fading, she exceeds all expectations. In addition to the previously-released ‘Dog Years,’ ‘On + Off,’ and the aforementioned ‘Alaska,’ Rogers rounds off the EP with two new tracks that show off her talent as a singer-songwriter in pushing the boundaries of her musical style, whilst remaining true to the mesmerising blend of folk melodies and electronic beats that make her truly unique as an artist.
In ‘Alaska,’ Rogers strikes uniquely perfect balance between folk melody and synthpop rhythm, layering infectious electronic percussion with gorgeous acoustic instrumentation, beautiful imagery (“Moving slowly through westward water / Over glacial plains”), and sublime vocals. Slowly building towards a euphoric climax, ‘Alaska’ exudes an easy-going aura as Rogers intuitively has fun with the genre she is creating, singing that she “Learned to talk and say / Whatever I wanted to” as she transitioned from producing strictly folk music to her current blend of folk and electronic. Opening on new track ‘Color Song,’ Rogers demonstrates her range by carrying the song almost entirely with her voice. With just a couple of backing lines and the ambient sounds of the forest for company, the focus is entirely on her as a singer. Her lyrics have a terrifically poetic quality, framed around a twilight campfire in the Alaskan wilderness as her gorgeous delivery invites you to listen to the rest of her work. With vocals as strong as these, it’s impossible to resist.
Throughout Now That the Light Is Fading, Rogers displays a fantastic range of musical talents, contrasting the a cappella ‘Color Song’ with the elegantly cool semi-synthetic beats of ‘Alaska’ and ‘Better.’ In ‘On + Off’ and ‘Dog Years’ she switches up her style yet again, using percussion and synthesizers to greater effect, producing two passionately upbeat tracks. Sitting comfortably alongside the slower, more thoughtful songs that surround them, these provide an energetic core to the EP before the beautiful fade-out of ‘Better,’ in which she presents folk influences in the lyrics’ beautiful imagery and multitude of subtle acoustic elements. (She even sampled rattlesnakes to achieve more high-end on snares and the sound of falling trees to accentuate basslines.)
The biggest shame about Now That the Light Is Fading is that it ends too soon: as ‘Better’ fades out, I cannot help but be left wanting more. At times subtle, at times punchy, and more often than not a perfect blend of the two, Rogers’ debut EP is a triumph throughout. Even though she is more than able to change up her style, her sound is unique in the popular music landscape today, unified by the display of folk influences and vocal range. To what will hopefully be an illustrious career, Now That the Light Is Fading serves as a fine debut.
Now That the Light Is Fading is out now via Capitol Records