By: Shannon O’Malley
Maggie Rogers recently released her EP, Now That The Light Is Fading, which gives a naturally ambient feel, even with instrumentation that largely sounds electronically produced. Her light and organic vocals help create a calming atmosphere, but don’t make it gloomy or disheartening. In a discussion she had with Pharrell Williams at NYU, which is available on YouTube and worth giving a listen to, Rogers explains that she’s always made folk music and is very influenced by her love for the outdoors. She even talks about using the natural imagery and samples that she’s collected from hiking. But while studying abroad in Europe, she developed an appreciation and spiritual understanding of dance music. After this experience is when she decided to combine these natural and “unnatural” elements.
“Color Song” is what starts it all off as a shorter and somewhat lulling intro, using some outdoor ambiance to back up layered voices harmonizing a cappella. The rest of the EP consists of more uplifting melodies and cheery beats with Rogers softly singing along so that they’re relaxed enough to make them tunes that you can lightly jam to. “Alaska,” for example, is a song that helps display her appreciation for the natural environment. Not only through the lyrics, but the melody and use of instrumentation also does very well in portraying the freeing feeling of being where you feel most at peace. This soothing, soul-settling EP is the perfect motivation for going out and taking a stroll through the woods on a nice day.
With their sixth album, No Culture, Mother Mother has gone in a direction that involves being deeply and genuinely honest about themselves. According to the band members, the overall theme of this album is about finding yourself. And although it deals with personal issues, it was also important to them to write their songs in a way that their fans would be able to feel a connection with the lyrics as well. Their indie-rock style is very synthetic with a lot of electronic beats and reverb, but the frequent use of an electric guitar, along with bass and drums, allows a stronger sound. Despite there being a certain emotional depth and darkness being present throughout the album, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s all gloomy and dismal. The beats made by the synth and guitar make a lot of the songs fun and/or hard-hitting so that you’ll want to sway and jump along.
“Free” is the song that opens the album and immediately catches your attention. It starts off with the two members harmonizing along to beats resembling stomping and clapping in a way that makes it haunting, then jumps into heavy guitar and drums. The alternation and later intermingling of these two sounds gives the song an empowering feel that’s also dark enough to complement the lyrics that resemble a prayer for emotional/mental relief. Next on the album is the very upbeat song, “Love Stuck.” This track generally sounds happier and more care-free, but the lyrics have a deeper tone. The exact meaning can be debated, but it suggests having the experience of losing the ability to feel or love, or keeping all the emotion locked up inside yourself. It also expresses the desire to be able to love again. “Letter” is more synth-focused and has a slower, somewhat sadder tone. The lead singer has discussed that though the lyrics make it sound like it’s about trying to talk to a lover (the lyrics even include “I wrote my lover today”), it’s in fact about writing a letter to yourself. With that in mind, this song seems to focus on communication with yourself and self-reflection.