It’s easy to write about something terrible. It’s not challenging to write about something average. It’s fairly difficult to write about something good. But it’s excruciatingly hard to write about something perfect.
You want to express how you feel in words which can be understood by someone other than yourself, but you don’t want to risk sounding clichéd. Part of you wants to use every single word in the English language, and part of you recognises that it still would not be enough. You feel completely trapped by the limits of the written word, but you also feel totally exposed by the vulnerability of writing about something which affects you in a way that you only experience once in a blue moon. Maggie Rogers’ Now That the Light is Fading is just 17-minutes long, but it says more about the power of music than the industry has seen in the last decade.
“Color Song” is the first track on the EP. There is no instrumental, only Rogers’ utterly outstanding voice layered several times in transcendent harmonies. The separate recordings do not quite match up, and each consonant is heard a few times, as though the song was a live recording of a choir instead of an electronic stacking of one person’s voice. This is not a criticism, and it was almost definitely a conscious decision on Rogers’ part. And it beautifully sums up the artist’s attitude towards her art: perfection does not lie in musical accuracy, crisp transitions or manufactured sound, but in the fearless decision to put one’s entire soul into their creation.
If “Color Song” is gorgeous because of its simplicity, “Alaska” is for its complexity. Rogers has created a musical masterpiece in this song: the melody is unique and the lyrics are moving, but it is the beat that transforms this track into something transcendent. It is the musical equivalent of a Monet piece – listen too closely and it is a mess of pretentiously “weird” sounds, but step back to appreciate the result and it is a song that vibrates through every bone in your body.
“On + Off” and “Better” are equally stunning tracks, pairing the singer’s poetic lyrics with the heavy, loaded beat that stands her sound on a pedestal above the shallow dance music constantly being regurgitated by current popular music artists.
But the fourth track, “Dog Years”, is makes me resent my inability to manipulate the English language as well as I hope to. This is the song of the album, and I am simply unable to write what this song does to me. Rogers’ voice reaches into your head and touches every drifting thought, then reaches into your chest and squeezes every feeling out of your heart, until you are emotionally exhausted. It sounds like nothing else on earth.
In Now That the Light is Fading, Rogers has created a selection of tracks powerful enough to remind us all that music is not simply a background accompaniment to menial daily tasks, or a blaring noise compelling people to rub against each other in the middle of a grimy dance floor. It is painting in sounds. It is art, and Rogers was born for it.
Now That the Light is Fading by Maggie Rogers was released on 16 February 2017. Listen to the EP now on Spotify: