Maggie Rogers – ‘Don’t Forget Me’ review: wistful road trip record acts as a sonic reboot

Maggie Rogers – ‘Don’t Forget Me’ review: wistful road trip record acts as a sonic reboot

Perhaps the one constant tying together each era of American pop is its tendency to find inspiration from the country’s highways. Lying steadily as the nation around them drastically evolves, they’ve simultaneously existed as veins tying states together and a muse for artists seeking romantic metaphors for freedom, idealism and escape. On ‘America’, Simon & Garfunkel hitchhiked and gazed longingly out of bus windows in search of the nation’s identity, while Bruce Springsteen has felt the urge the open road since birth. It’s a uniquely American notion — after all, few have been compelled to write odes to the M25 (although Olivia Dean did give it a go). So, when delving into her most introspective songwriting yet, it makes sense that Maggie Rogers, like those before her, has turned to their sweltering tarmac and the lonesome desert landscapes that frame them for guidance.

Having first found acclaim through 2016’s ‘Alaska’ — introduced to the world through a viral clip now embedded into internet lore — Rogers’ career thus far has often felt like a grappling to establish her sound. Her debut, 2019’s ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ chronicled her struggle to adjust to newfound fame and blended tasteful Euro dance music with her lifelong fondness for folk; it’s follow-up, 2022’s ‘Surrender’, marked an urgent, heavier evolution, adopting elements of alternative rock to capture the claustrophobia and chaos of New York City.

‘Don’t Forget Me’, then, offers an insight into the direction Rogers’ may have gone in had ‘Alaska’ not plunged her into an intense virality that expected her to replicate the track’s poppier principles. While her debut drew criticism for over-production, ‘Don’t Forget Me’ shines in its simplicity, with Ian Fitchuk (Kacey Musgraves, Stephen Sanchez) as the sole collaborator. Here, through a whole-hearted embrace of the folk, country and Western that underscored her upbringing, Rogers’ seems more at home than ever.

Yet, ‘Don’t Forget Me’ exists as a meticulously crafted homage to the road trip. Rogers attended sessions with a very specific aesthetic moodboard: endeavouring to capture the beauty of ephemeral moments with the same fervour as the grainy Linda McCartney photographs that documented ‘60s pop. Perhaps it’s why she deals so heavily in the finer details, with clothing a key lyrical motif. ‘The Kill’ recalls a lover through the scraps of discarded clothing they left in a hasty exit and ‘Never Going Home’ has flashbacks in the form of a “jacket the same colour as the seats in your car”.

Crucially, though, it’s a record that doesn’t take itself too seriously. ‘So Sick Of Dreaming’ is a celebration of singledom indebted to Shania Twain, both sonically and lyrically (“So you think you’re on the right track/Cruising on the bridge in your grey Cadillac”, she sings with an audible smile). The song’s climax is a sex in the city-esque anecdote of being stood up at a steak restaurant by a date who went to see the Knicks instead. They lost, by the way, she’s sure to declare via a crackly voice note.

Written and recorded over five days in chronological order, the sequencing lends itself to the format of a road trip — so much so that at times it seems ready to soundtrack an inevitable Thelma & Louise reboot. There’s the relentless energy to begin (‘Drunk’), existential conversion (‘If Now Was Then’) and sing along anthems (‘On & On & On’ and ‘Never Going Home’) that collapse into quietness following too many miles (‘I Still Do’).

It’s why the final track ‘Don’t Forget Me’ is all the more poignant, conjuring the bittersweet feeling of reaching a familiar destination after a long drive. As the promises of the open road dissolve into familiarity, it’s a return to real life and a final acceptance of the inevitability of endings. Having spent a record collating memories with the urgency of someone trying to capture flecks of light disappearing in the rearview mirror, it’s a moment of vulnerability from Rogers that reveals her desire to be remembered with the same importance – and one that that assures she will be.



Release date: April 12, 2024
Record label: Capitol Records

The post Maggie Rogers – ‘Don’t Forget Me’ review: wistful road trip record acts as a sonic reboot appeared first on NME.

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