Thursday, May 30, 2024

Maggie Rogers’ ‘Don’t Forget Me’ Review

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In a letter announcing her third album, Don’t Forget Me, singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers says she got inspired for her latest project by creating a “younger Thelma & Louise,” using that storytelling vessel to navigate difficult personal truths of her own. Such self-exploring wanderlust has been a common theme for Rogers, an artist who proclaimed “I found myself when I was going everywhere” on her first LP. This time out, she’s taking a metaphorical road trip through her own past as a means of escaping her disconcerting present. 

Rogers has been putting out smart, semi-autobiographical pop since launching her career in 2016 with a viral moment in which she impressed Pharell Williams with a rendition of her song “Alaska” while still a student at NYU. Since then, Rogers has tapped into a wide range of influences — from the Grateful Dead to Britney Spears — as she veered from the eclectic pop of her 2019 debut, Heard It in a Past Life, to the sleek, futuristic sounds of her sophomore album, Surrender. She’s the rare twentysomething artist who could seem equally at home playing Coachella and the Newport Folk Festival.

“So Sick of Dreaming,” the second single from Don’t Forget Me, finds Rogers ambivalent about her frustrating reality; she gets stood up on dates and is forced to watch her close friends live out existences that “sounds so scary” — getting married and maintaining unfulfilling relationships. On album opener “It Was Coming All Along,” the 29-year-old is deep in the existential crisis of someone “long past 22,” pining for days of yore.

To deal with all of the disillusionment, Don’t Forget Me escapes into memory and carefree reflections, sometimes even the kind you learn from. On the insistently catchy “The Kill,” she fondly remembers the thrilling early years of a past relationship with intimate details like sharing “indie-rock songs in the car” and her partner wearing “fresh leather.” Similarly, “If Now Was Then” is a crushing walk down memory lane as Rogers takes us through the college days of that same relationship and lays bare her regrets. On the piercing ballad “I Still Do,” Rogers sings about the unvarnished love she once had for an ex, before admitting it’s a feeling she can’t let go of.

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For such a heavy emotional lift, the album is an easygoing listen, perfect for a Sunday-afternoon drive. Co-produced with Ian Fitchuk (who worked on Kacey Musgraves’ career-defining Golden Hour), Don’t Forget Me strips away the synth–steeped singer-songwriter production of Heard It in a Past Life and the alt-rock experimentation of 2022’s Surrender to reveal a rustic, more organic-feeling pop-rock sound. Upbeat tracks like “On and On and On” and “Never Going Home” are perfectly made for big-voiced singalongs in a way that brings to mind Michelle Branch’s early work. 

Meanwhile, the meditative high-note “All the Same” is raw and elemental. Against delicate acoustic plucks and soothing piano notes, Rogers croons about the aching passage of time and craves the salve of “one more kiss/A moment’s bliss from a lover you’ve always known” before posing a tender question: “Won’t you wait?” The sense of unguarded affection perfectly sums up Don’t Forget Me. If she can find that kind of happiness, Rogers’ journey is worth it.



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