I’m not kidding – this album changed my life. Now before I get ahead of myself and dig myself deep into the trenches of my love, I’ll let you know what it’s called. ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ by Maggie Rogers – the album that changed my life – was released 3 years ago this week, and I wanted to celebrate it because I still listen to it in its entirety at least 3 times a week. It never gets old for me, and feels so special – like it was ripped out of my own soul, no editing required.
A wild, ethereal, spiritually free record; a coming-of-age record; a huge sweeping character arc of a record – you watch Maggie go into the record as one person and emerge victorious as a newer, wiser, more forgiving person. Her songs feel like a mirror, and I feel that I reflected that change too while listening to this album. It’s so introspective, as if she’s spent hours upon end replaying scenes in her life and analysing them to finally see them for what they are. They’re honest and real, while also feeling like you’re in a dream.
It’s not a record that you love in its entirety on the first listen. Songs like ‘Light On’, ‘Burning’, ‘Retrograde’, and ‘Alaska’ grasp you immediately. Songs like ‘The Knife’ and ‘Say It’ are slow burners, burning away your disinterest like a piece of cardboard that struggles to light, but burns nonetheless.
This record makes you feel like you’re standing on the beach in the middle of the night – a pastime normally reserved for youths or lovers – or someone going through a massive life change. When you leave the beach and go to bed, you feel changed, and you wake up in the morning feeling like it was a dream with nothing else to remind you it was real than the grains of sand at the bottom of your sheets.
The song ‘Light On’ served me greatly in my latest big breakup. Although it’s a song about her journey into fame and leaving her past life behind, the lyrics “If you leave the light on, I’ll leave the light on,” was a signifier and a hope that we’d always love each other, even if we weren’t in love. The modern version of to hold a candle for someone, so to speak. “If you keep reaching out, and I keep coming back, but if you’re gone for good, then I’m okay with that, if you leave the light on, then I’ll leave the light on,” how is this not directly for me and my ex- boyfriend? He’s an angel, and I’ll leave the light on for him always. For her it was an ode to loving and hoping to keep a semblance of her past life, which is a direct correlation to the next song placed on the record.
After ‘Light On’ comes ‘Past Life’, a haunting and emotive slow ballad again about her transition into a different, more public life. Lyrics like, “I can feel a change a’coming / I can feel it in the breeze,” and “I could feel the world was turning / all inside my mind” shows a real acceptance of past and future colliding. Whether that be the seasons or different stages in her life or moving on from a loved one. Ending with “Maybe everything’s just turning out how it should be,” is a resigned notion that the world moves on whether or not we want it to, and we have to run with it – it might result in good things. What do we know?
The following song is one of my absolute favourites, called “Say It” which after the previous songs having an ending and feeling like closing a chapter, describes the absolute sparkle of new love, and the naughty ‘No-I-shouldn’t-but-I-really-really-want-to’ of forbidden love. It’s too soon/he’s not for me – we all come up with reasons why we shouldn’t love someone, and this is a song dedicated to why we should. Live a little! Dabble on the dark side! Love someone who you know is no good for you! It’s all a part of being alive.
‘On + Off’ is a continuation of the previous song I suppose; it’s about the back and forth of knowing someone’s not so good for you but you love them anyway, because you’re free with your loving and you think everyone deserves it.
The ending of the album consists of songs that feel like breaking free of a cocoon, running through a wheat field (I see you Theresa May), playing in a stream and not worrying about getting wet. It feels like new beginning and becoming the person you are meant to be.
In ‘Falling Water’ she talks about fighting the current, fighting what’s going to happen “as if it could be any other way”, and consequently feels like falling water, where she goes with the flow and accepts the way things are and the way they are going to be. True for love, and more so even life, struggling to turn the tide is tiring and if often a waste of effort. Sometimes our life goes on and that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.
True to her song ‘Retrograde’, the album is like a cycle of the moon. Sometimes we wane, sometimes we’re new, sometimes we wax, and sometimes we’re full. This album represents the ups and downs of life, how no matter how you fight it we will always have ups and downs and sometimes it’s just best to let it happen. Sometimes you will be in retrograde, and you just have to sit with your life and let it happen to you. ‘Retrograde’ is an absolute banger for those of us who love a good astrology sesh, where she struggles with moving backward after all she’s grasped forward throughout the album.
The last song, ‘Back In My Body’ feels like coming home after a long journey. “This time I know I’m fighting / This time I’m back in my body” is repeated like a mantra throughout the song, almost a celebration of being present and whole-ly into yourself – this is who you are, and you’re not ashamed of it, not trying to change it – it’s you, and you’re unapologetic for it. After all the anxiety of changing times and changing loves and changing lives, to know you’re fighting because “you’re back in your body,” you know you’re rediscovering your true self.
An iconic album that stays with you long after the first listen, ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ is not only her debut album but her best album. Luckily for us, she’s finishing up her third record, which hopefully will show us how far she’s come, and maybe it might help us realise how far we’ve come too. Her work is a mirror, after all.
thought i made an angry record but turns out it sounds like feral joy— Maggie Rogers (@maggierogers) January 21, 2022