Album Review: Rae Morris – Unguarded

2014 was a busy year for many rising artists as the likes of Hozier, FKA twigs and Clean Bandit shot into the spotlight and found success. Hiding among the year’s quivers and armies of debuting musicians was Blackpool’s own, Rae Morris.

Three years after the release of her very first single, Rae has developed an early contender for 2015’s cool & quirky pop album of the year; layered with crisp electronic soundscapes, luscious piano melodies and embracing acoustic atmospheres. Armed with a voice rich in tones designed for luxurious lullabies and songwriting skills that could create a cold sweat in the industry’s most noteworthy wordsmiths, Rae Morris’ debut album ‘Unguarded’ is a circadian noir-pop force to be reckoned with.

Ticking clocks and toy pianos build the foundations for the gentle awakening that is ‘Skin’. There’s a frailty to the emotion in Rae’s voice that recalls Regina Spektor in some of her more delicate moments. Rae’s visionary lyrics conjure a variety of lyrics in their imagination and metaphors that leave them circling your mind over and over again. Even with the drums picking up the tempo, ‘Skin’ firmly remains a ballad and only increases in beauty as it moves forward, especially towards the end as the gentle piano is showered in heavenly strings.

Current single ‘Under The Shadows’ incorporates the the mood of it’s title. This brooding beast is highly elusive, but is not afraid to bare it’s teeth atop mountainous percussion and a towering chorus. Rae’s infectious charm shines throughout with a flare of drama and charisma that would inspire a standing ovation from the likes of Florence Welch and Kate Bush.

The earworm hooks continue on the Kid Harpoon-produced ‘Closer’. Tracks that venture into unfamiliar territory in correlation to the rest of the album are very hit & miss, fortunately, for ‘Closer’ the former is the victor as the 1980’s R&B-flavoured jam proves itself an album highlight while Rae proves herself capable as a musical adventurer.




For You’ takes the cycle back to a warm and gentle place with her hallmark balladry. ‘For You’ represents ‘Unguarded’’s title to a tee; every emotion presented is pure and raw and every lyric recited is honest. There’s even great beauty to be heard in the non-verbal melodies that Rae chants through the gliding hook.

Sometimes, all you need is a piano and a toe-tapping beat to create a great pop gem. Such a combination is what makes ‘Love Again’ another undeniable highlight. The song’s instrumentation recalls some of the more joyous and uptempo songs that you might find in Coldplay’s back catalogue – it embraces it’s fun side without becoming overwhelmingly euphoric and when combined with Rae’s gentle vocals, ‘Love Again’ becomes a soothing drug that keeps you coming back for a little more.

Standing in the middle of the album is ‘Don’t Go’. Rae and her piano are solely backed by a hushed section of strings on this captivating ballad. Here, her ability to convey fragility is powerful enough to send chills running down a listener’s spine and stun them into a transfixed silence.
While title track ‘Unguarded’ doesn’t necessarily lighten the mood after having our hearts caressed by ‘Don’t Go’, it walks with a more contemporary skeleton as it progresses. A variety of sounds can be heard on this mysterious creature, from lulling lounge vibes to celestial electronic flourishes. While ballads may well be her staple, Rae sounds incredibly at home singing over the subtle electronica that flows beneath her.

Further electronic melancholia seeps into the album’s sole duet, ‘Cold’. Inspired by the duets of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, Rae enlists the electro-croons of producer Fryars for this poignant diamond through call-and-respond communication. The back-and-forth’s refreshing simplicity better depicts the tale of feuding lovers dissecting the residue of the faded relationship.

Produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, ‘Do You Even Know?’ explores that all too familiar-yet-human feeling of isolation and withdrawal. Rechtshaid’s production cocoons Rae’s lilting vocals in falls of showering synths and glimmering strings that dance with each other atop a whispering beat.

Morne Fortune’ features a delightful and jovial piano melody that loops through the majority of the 4 minute timespan. Alongside the piano in the chorus is Rae, simple belting “Morne Fortune” with mountainous reverb and cavernous drums. Once again proving how effective and infectious simplicity can be.

This Time’ beats with a heart similar to that of ‘For You’. Layered with submerged drums and a choir as calming as a river in spring. And so comes the finale to the circadian album, the stimulating farewell of ’Not Knowing’. The arrangement of strings carry such an atmospheric grandeur that they could occupy the space of a stadium when sounding next to Rae’s strong falsetto.

Rae Morris is a musician with a level of skill that expands beyond her 21 years; she’s an intuitive storyteller who is not afraid to strip her lyrics down to their skeletons. Meanwhile, her musicality only continues to bring a feeling of genuine warmth even at the album’s most fragile and melancholic moments.

‘Unguarded’ will be released January 26
Watch the video for ‘Under The Shadows’ below

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