Politics

Maggie Rogers’ ‘Surrender’ Is a Nearly Perfect Album


Final Grade: 9.2/10

maggie rogers surrender album cover

“Surrender” consists of 12 tracks.

Debay Sounds/UMG/Capitol


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:

“Overdrive”

“That’s Where I Am”

“Want Want”

“Anywhere With You”

“Horses”

“Be Cool”

“Shatter”

“Begging for Rain”

“I’ve Got a Friend”

“Honey”

Background music:

“Symphony”

“Different Kind of World”

Split decision:

N/A

Press skip:

N/A

*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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