Maggie Rogers released her sophomore album, "Surrender," on Friday.
It's a cornucopia of '80s pop, '90s alt-rock, folksy guitar, and whip-smart songwriting.
The best songs are "That's Where I Am," "Anywhere With You," "Shatter," and "I've Got a Friend."
Maggie Rogers released her sophomore album, "Surrender," on Friday.
Rogers rose to prominence as a New York University student with a singular folk sound. Three years after her well-received debut, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter has returned with a bigger, bolder version of her signature self-reflection that she described as "joy with teeth."
Here is what we thought of each song on "Surrender" upon first listen. (Skip to the end to see the only songs worth listening to and the album's final score.)
"Overdrive" elegantly sums up the attitude of the album.
Ahlgrim: Rogers has said that when she wrote "Overdrive" with Kid Harpoon, the lyrics came "pouring out" and she "knew immediately it would be the opening track." This is important to note because her instinct was correct. "Overdrive" is the perfect opening track for "Surrender."
In many ways, those two titles are treated as synonyms throughout the tracklist: Rogers' vision of surrender is finding meaning in the mundane, submitting to the unknowable energy that binds us, and allowing her emotions to churn and frolic unchecked, even if they're painful.
In other words: "I could go for miles / Gave me a reason / Now I'm in overdrive."
Larocca: You know you're in for a ride when the very first song on an album gives you full-body chills. This was my experience with "Overdrive."
On the bridge, you can hear Rogers take an audible breath between "you kept me in" and "the dark." On a more polished track, these gasps for air would be edited out — but keeping it in adds to the raw, untamed energy that pulsates throughout "Surrender."
"That's Where I Am" is easily one of the year’s best singles.
Ahlgrim: This is my favorite song of 2022 so far. The soaring delivery of "I felt you everywhere," on its own, transcends my skills as a music critic.
"That's Where I Am" has that untouchable, irresistible quality that some hits have — the kind that has guided my thumb to the "add to queue" button every time I've opened Spotify since April. The claps! The crunch-rock beat-drop after the first chorus! The subtle shade thrown at fur-wearers! I couldn't ask for anything more.
Larocca: God, what a song.
"Want Want" is a pop-rock banger full of sexual tension.
Ahlgrim: "Want Want" is the musical embodiment of passion. It writhes and wriggles, delighting in its own hunger. The repetition of the titular word really drives this point home, as if Rogers is an impatient kid in a candy store.
In less capable hands, this might come off as greedy or entitled. But Rogers communicates her own desire so well that you feel it in your teeth, too. By the end of the song, when she demands, "If you got another hour I want all of it," you can't help but hand it over.
Larocca: While describing "Want Want" to her Instagram followers, Rogers wrote, "These days I see feral joy as an act of rebellion. As a sensual assertion that says, 'I'm alive.'"
That really is what "Want Want" is all about — it's rebellious, seductive, lively, guiltless, human. It's about finally giving into your desires with reckless abandon. Sometimes surrendering to your most carnal impulses is exactly what you need.
"Anywhere With You" is a cathartic masterpiece.
Ahlgrim: If I hadn't just spent the past three months becoming emotionally attached to "That's Where I Am" (a bond solidified when it made me cry during Rogers' golden-hour set at Coachella), this would easily be my favorite song on "Surrender." (Give me three more months and it very well may take that crown.)
"Anywhere With You" works on every level.
Thematically, it reminds me of some of my favorite songs of all time — namely "If It's the Beaches" by the Avett Brothers and "Ready to Start" by Arcade Fire.
Sonically, it blends a '90s grunge-girl vibe with early-aughts arena rock and the atmospheric oh oh oh's of Taylor Swift's "1989."
Personally, it feels like an attack because I went to high school in Connecticut and spent a lot of time cruising down the I-95 with my then-boyfriend, thinking, "I'll go anywhere with you."
Spiritually, this song creates the most powerful sensation of release and raw emotion in Rogers' catalog, rivaled only by "Back In My Body." It steadily builds momentum, just like the process of throwing your bags into a car and speeding down the highway until the ultimate moment of slamming-down-on-the-gas-pedal catharsis: "All I've ever wanted is to make something fucking last."
Larocca: The first time I heard "Anywhere With You," I cried. The second time, I sobbed. And the third time, and the fourth. Hell, I'm probably going to be producing tears to this song for the rest of my life.
While I cannot pinpoint a single thing about this track that doesn't work, I can identify several that do: The drums kicking in just shy of the one-minute mark. The line "Maybe the miles can make up for the things you lack." Rogers' final "I'll go anywhere with you" on the second chorus. The urgency of the bridge. The layered vocals on the final chorus.
And I know Callie already mentioned Swift's influence in the backing vocals, but I must say I'm most surprised Rogers beat her to the couplet "Cruising 95 like we got nothing to lose / I'm praying to the headlights like I prayed to you."
This song will undoubtedly withstand the test of time. It's already a classic.
"Horses" is a powerful ballad that Rogers recorded in one take.
Ahlgrim: At first glance, "Horses" seems like an expression of recklessness or irresponsibility. In the chorus, Rogers conjures the visual of a herd "running wild" and wishes she could "feel like that for just a minute."
It's easy to assume she feels pressure — from work, perhaps, or just the crushing absurdity of modern life — and yearns to make a break for it.
But for those of us who have gone through a stretch or two of emotional numbness, we can recognize this song as a plea — not to escape the world, but to feel electrified by it, to swap cigarettes for thunderstorms and distant dreams for tactile experiences. It's not about running away. It's about finding something she lost.
Rogers' strained and urgent lyrics are made even more potent by her raw vocals, which she has said she recorded in just one late-night take.
Larocca: The back-to-back sequencing of "Anywhere With You" and "Horses" is genius, but should also be illegal. I have no idea how I'm meant to emotionally handle going from swearing to follow someone to the ends of the Earth, to questioning if they would do the same ("Would you come with me or would you resist? / Oh, could you just give in?").
That said, this might be Rogers' best vocal performance on all of "Surrender," made all the more impressive with the knowledge that it was recorded in one take.
"Be Cool" is a portrait of supportive friendship and simpler times.
Ahlgrim: This song doesn't share the electricity or urgency of the previous five tracks, but it does spark the spellbinding urge to sway gently, having the effect of a palate cleanser.
The mellower production compliments the premise nicely, as "Be Cool" is essentially a song about nostalgic comfort: listening to Britney Spears, getting "drunk on the month of June," and feeling both chill and immortal as only teenagers truly can.
Larocca: If the first five songs on "Surrender" are a glimpse into the race car running around Rogers' heart, "Be Cool" is the much-needed reminder to not let every emotional impulse drive you into the ground.
Listen, sometimes you just gotta take a break from your own anxieties and fuck off for a month or two. It's cool.
"Shatter" is a thrilling standout that features '80s synths and Florence Welch on tambourine.
Ahlgrim: When "Shatter" kicks off, it doesn't sound like a Maggie Rogers song. The opening chords could've been pulled from a montage in a Brat Pack movie, or perhaps a season-three mall scene in "Stranger Things."
But I love that Rogers is experimenting with different styles and throwing herself into new environments. There's a thrilling contrast between her expressive singing technique and the '80s-pop production; her controlled voice cracks add so much realism to a genre that can feel too polished.
Of course, this is entirely intentional. Rogers spends the whole song wrapped in neon lights and synths, her vocal chords stretching and cracking, before she finally lets her true psyche crash through in the bridge: "I know there's people everywhere with injustice on their lips / And there's this open wound bleeding between my hips / And I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't scared."
"Shatter" captures the universal urge to shimmy and smash that fear away, all while burdened with the knowledge that most places don't glow like a dance floor.
Larocca: I'm out of breath from listening to "Shatter," and I mean that in the very best way. It's the kind of song you can feel pulsing in your chest; the kind that you'll find yourself speeding 90 mph down a highway to when it comes on shuffle.
"I don't really care if it nearly kills me" perfectly sums up how I feel about "Shatter." Look, I might crash my car, but I'm going down feeling everything with Rogers. (This is a joke, please drive responsibly.)
When I looked back at my very first notes for this song, all I had written down was "Unhinged. I love it." Exactly.
"Begging for Rain" boasts some of the album's most poignant lyrics.
Ahlgrim: This song reminds me of "The Climb" from "Hannah Montana: The Movie" (a big compliment in my culture). It's self-assured but not idealistic, frustrated yet empathetic.
Rogers has a knack for unearthing feelings I thought I'd outgrown and helping to make sense of them with adult eyes. "I try my best to not be bitter / Give my rage a babysitter" is one of my favorite couplets on the album.
Larocca: There are so many moments in "Begging for Rain" that feel as if they were crafted specifically to break hearts.
"You work all day to find religion / And end up standing in your kitchen / Wondering bout the way its always been" brings to mind a line from a fellow indie-pop darling: "Got a wishbone dryin' on the windowsill in my kitchen / Just in case I wake up and realize I've chosen wrong" (from Lorde's "Stoned at the Nail Salon," aka one of the best songs of 2021).
"I feel it all and I can't stop it / Wish that I could turn my faucet loose / On all my friends who keep on calling / Like nothing's wrong and asking me what's new" makes me feel several types of sadness at once.
It could be a line about grief, suffering from depression, or seeing Roe v. Wade was overturned before your friends did. It could also be a call-back for the "Light On" stans: "Crying in the bathroom / Had to figure it out / With everyone around me saying / 'You must be so happy now.'"
But Rogers doesn't even let that pain simmer before she hits you with: "I try my best to not be bitter / Give my rage a babysitter / Stop waiting for the adults to come home."
"I've Got a Friend" includes an explicit line about Robert Pattinson that you cannot miss out on.
Ahlgrim: "I've Got a Friend" evokes the same kind of intimacy as someone moving your necklace clasp back to the nape of your neck. (The girls who get it, get it.)
So much of love is just paying attention. When that is paired with Rogers' ability to communicate complex emotions with straightforward phrases, you get one of the most endearing love songs I've ever heard.
Rogers' best friend Taylor comes alive with each detail and quirk we become privy to; she loves Dolly Parton, "wears all her mother's rings," and "masturbates to Rob Pattinson, staring at the wall." It's specific in a way that feels warm, not exclusive, as if their friendship is a blanket that covers anyone who observes it.
Larocca: "Oh, I've got a friend who's been there through it all / Masturbates to Rob Pattinson, staring at the wall" is quite possibly my favorite lyric that has ever been written about female friendship. It's the very first thing on this album that I wanted to share with one of my oldest pals.
It's hilarious and meant to embarrass the friend just a little bit, but it also speaks to how intimate friendship can be. Name one of my own best friends, and I could give you a list of which celebrities they've gotten off to, too.
The rest of the song evokes a similar closeness and adoration for the ones we choose to hold near, and how they choose us back. "I've got a friend who handed me a shot / And taught me to dance when the love inside was not" is one such highlight.
"Honey" is destined to be a centerpiece of Rogers' live performances.
Ahlgrim: "Honey" is the most anthemic song on the tracklist. It's begging to be screamed by best friends on a road trip or a crowd at Webster Hall.
The song's fuzzy, anxious energy is designed to be shared because none of us really know what's going on. We all wonder if we made the right bets and befriended the right people, or if there are other versions of ourselves who are happier in a parallel universe.
But just by asking the question ("If you're wondering what you should do with your life / Honey if I knew, I would tell you, wouldn't I?"), "Honey" doubles as the solution. For Rogers, art is sacred. It has the power to foster community in a chaotic, uncertain world. If "Honey" can make others feel less alone, it defangs the very anxiety it describes.
"I feel super religious, if music is a religion," Rogers recently told the New York Times. "When I'm in the crowd of fans or onstage, that's when I felt the most connected to something greater than myself."
Larocca: The first verse of "Honey" is what would happen if you took Phoebe Bridgers' "Scott Street" and swapped out the melancholy for simmering agitation.
"But I had to leave and now when you hear my name / Oh, does it break your shit? Or do you run away?" is a more aggressive "Do you feel ashamed / When you hear my name?"
"Symphony" is a moment of melancholy and introspection that unfortunately gets lost in the shuffle.
Ahlgrim: Rogers revealed on TikTok that "Symphony" is about "just wanting to spend time with the ones you love when the world is crumbling."
I love the premise and quite like the song overall — particularly the Phil Collins-esque drums and the therapy shout-out in the bridge — but I think it was a mistake giving "Symphony" the penultimate slot on the tracklist. It brings the album to a simmer instead of a blaze, interrupting its momentum too close to the end.
Larocca: While listening through this album, I started noticing a pattern. Every time I got to "Symphony" I would ask myself, "which one is this, again?"
Once it hits the 2:30 mark, though, I remember it as "the one with the therapy line" because the bridge is the biggest standout here: "I know there's times when I can be a lot to handle / And I'm working with a therapist to take care of it."
But at a whopping five minutes and 11 seconds long, I wish this song was more memorable.
"Different Kind of World" is an earnest closer that ends up being slightly underwhelming.
Ahlgrim: I'm a sucker for a closing track that starts off gentle before it explodes (see also: "I Know the End" by Phoebe Bridgers, "Fine Line" by Harry Styles), so my only gripe is that Rogers' explosion is so brief. I would've liked to live inside the drums and distortion a bit longer.
"Different Kind of World" gives you one final burst of catharsis before it leaves you wanting more.
Larocca: Rogers should've spent less time on "Symphony" and more time on "Different Kind of World." I would've loved for the sonic explosion at the 1:50 mark to stretch on longer than it did, especially with a shriek or scream from Rogers.
She spent the entire album expressing feral joy, so one last burst of energy would've been a perfect send-off. While still charming, it's a bit restrained.
Final Grade: 9.2/10
Ahlgrim: Rogers has coined the phrase "feral joy" to describe the dominant theme of "Surrender."
I'm sure this will be described by other critics as an escapist record, given that joy feels like an act of rebellion or even dissociation these days. But it's clear to me that Rogers' work is born of a desire to engage with the world more deeply and thoughtfully, to throw herself in head-first, not to leave it behind.
"Surrender" is a full-body album — sweaty, full of stains and wounds, yet strong and graceful at its core.
It's music that makes me think of humidity and feeling your heartbeat in your fingertips, like a summer night in New York City. There's a good chance you'll cycle through the full range of human emotions in a matter of hours, only to return home sore and slaphappy.
Those nights remind me of how weird and miraculous it is to be alive; how gross the human body can be while still performing as a complex array of muscles and nerves and invisible impulses; how impressive it is to keep going despite constant tragedy.
"Surrender" shares the same effect. Rogers, who single-handedly wrote every word on this album, is a keen and sensitive lyricist. She infuses each moment of freedom and release with existential dread: the death of a mother lurks in the middle of her song about female friendship; amid a swirl of gleeful '80s synths, the phrase "I'm scared" is frantically repeated five times. Her vocal delivery is visceral, making every hint of emotion feel big and immediate.
But the beauty is that it works in reverse, too. None of Rogers' songs are just one thing. None are purely sad, hopeless, or fearful. There is always a whisper of hope, a sun that will rise tomorrow.
At its core, "Surrender" is what it sounds like to be happy against all odds.
Larocca: Earlier this week at an album-release party with Spotify, Rogers said she "knew I wanted to make a classic record and I wanted to spend some time to really dig into making one."
"Surrender" can't be categorized as only one thing; it's not a Sad Album, a Happy Album, or an Angry Album, nor is it a Breakup Album or a Romantic Album. Instead, it's a kaleidoscopic blend of all of the above — without ever feeling inauthentic or forced, overcrowded or congested.
Rogers surrendered to each ounce of emotion that pulsed through her mind and body and infused every last drop of it into this record. All of her instincts — from sexual urges ("Want Want") to the call of the void ("I could break a glass just to watch it shatter") — are laid bare for listeners to co-opt as their own.
Throughout "Surrender," Rogers champions the idea that life is communal, that everything we feel is, at some point, felt by someone else too, and we're usually better off for that. Rogers has no interest in a fruitless quest for unique experiences — if she's gonna lose her mind, she's gonna lose it with you.
But it's this embrace of mutual understanding and commonalities that helped Rogers succeed in her endeavor to create a classic album. Nearly every song on "Surrender" plays well on its own, but still lends itself to a live performance. I can envision a crowd collectively crying to "Begging for Rain" or screaming along to "Honey." I'm willing to bet that "Anywhere With You" will become a mainstay on every set list Rogers ever makes going forward.
With "Surrender," Rogers made something that will fucking last.
Worth listening to:
"That's Where I Am"
"Anywhere With You"
"Begging for Rain"
"I've Got a Friend"
"Different Kind of World"
*Final album score based on songs per category (1 point for "Worth listening to," .5 for "Background music," .5 for "Split decision," 0 for "Press skip").
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