Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Review: Surrender • Maggie Rogers


Last September, Maggie Rogers announced on Twitter that she was a Harvard graduate student – as one does so casually. “Studying the spirituality of public gatherings and the ethics of power in pop culture,” she tweeted alongside a picture of student identification card. By May, she had both earned her master’s degree and prepared a record to coincide with her thesis – Surrender, a set of lesson plans intended to teach its listeners to release control to something more powerful. As she toys with genres and feelings, Rogers uses the record as a playground for musical growth – and as a microscope to inspect personal relationships and translate their underpinnings into universally applicable ideas.

In comparison to its methodically composed predecessor, Surrender sometimes feels less concerned with appearances and perfectionism. Rogers unleashes a guttural performance on the noisy garage rock  “Shatter,” where she attempts to shake her deadened senses back to life: “I'm scared and I've got all this anger trapped so deep inside that started burning the summer my heroes died,” she says in its frenetic bridge, yanking the words from the depths of her throat. Across the record, Rogers also lands far more dynamic and daring vocal performances than her previous record, ultimately pushing songs like ballad “Begging for Rain” and lead single “That’s Where I Am,” a fantastic experiment in abutting a grinding dance-rock payoff against a classic vocoded pop build-up, into much stronger tracks.

As Surrender expands its palette with each of its 12 tracks, the album slowly reveals that it is nothing if not a record of modest risks. Most are relatively successful – like the booming stadium rock opener “Overdrive” and “Symphony,” which fragments its climaxes into short staccatos that leave its listener suspended in near silence over, and over, and over again – while other tracks feel beige in comparison – namely, acoustic interruption “I’ve Got a Friend,” an awkward dedication to a friend, and “Want Want,” where Rogers attempts to smash a pop chorus into the pits of a coarse guitar bedrock. That said, the record doesn’t catapult Maggie Rogers into new territory. But it certainly nudges her toward more interesting spaces – as long as she lets go and fully embraces them.

Surrender is available now under Capitol Records and Debay Sounds.

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