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Rae Morris - Unguarded (Review)

Rae Morris, Unguarded

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

RAE Morris has long been tipped as a superstar in waiting. Her debut album Unguarded finds her fulfilling her potential in brilliant fashion.

A rich and vibrant album, this combines the ability to be radio-friendly with some highly intelligent lyricism that sets her apart from a lot of more throwaway mainstream acts.

Morris says of the album herself: “I’ve always liked to visualise things in circular patterns in my mind. A full circle journey, a complete tale and a finished story. I see my album as a coming-of-age tale, from start to finish, from then to now.

“I guess it’s a series of diary entries documenting these important years of growing up and learning. I’m not trying to be cryptic. It’s really simple. That’s just how I see it. I’m just being completely myself.”

The result is something deeply personal and which works on two levels, for there are double entendres at play throughout. The songs, by Morris’ own admission, are as much about Rae’s relationships, as they are about Rae’s relationship with herself. And it’s this disarming honesty that makes her so endearing too.

Final track Not Knowing, for instance, is shot through with uncertainty, yet somehow retains a sense of hope. It’s reassuringly relatable.

Similarly, opening effort Skin with its tick-tock percussion, toe-tapping beats and swirling synths find that bittersweet emotion wrapped up with another underlying sense of optimism and a chorus that declares: “We break the rules and listen to our own skin.” Vocally, there’s an ethereal quality about her sound that bears favourable comparison with acts such as Lykke Li, Imogen Heap and Bat For Lashes.

The Bat For Lashes comparisons are further heightened by the vocal and instrumental structure of Under The Shadows, with its sweeping electronics and ethereal voice. But it remains a striking recording in its own right.

There’s more to appeal on the tender, piano backed For You (which again builds towards an epic chorus in which Morris’ vocals really blossom), and the piercing introspection of Love Again, which opens amid the heartfelt lyrics “these days I’m afraid of me, there’s fire where my heart should be”, before declaring: “These days I’ve been looking too hard for something… looking for love again.” Again, the chorus sweeps you along in stirring fashion, thereby refusing to let the uncertainty and soul-searching in the lyrics to become too melancholy.

Further highlights come in the form of title track Unguarded, which layers in some nice echoed drum loops with its piano work, and Cold, which features a nice duet with Fryars and which is rife with moody atmospherics. Again, there’s another great chorus.

Morne Fortune and This Time also bring the album to a close with two more songs to impress, once more underlining Morris’ ability to mix up moods and sound whilst layering in the elements for a genuinely satisfying whole.

Morris can already lay claim to naming the likes of Chris Martin, Haim, Laura Mvula, Tom Odell and Bombay Bicycle Club among her fanbase. Don’t bet against a significant portion of the UK and beyond joining those ever swelling ranks before too long. Unguarded is a terrific debut album.

Download picks: Skin, Under The Shadows, For You, Love Again, Cold, Morne Fortune

Track listing:

  1. Skin
  2. Under The Shadows
  3. Closer
  4. For You
  5. Love Again
  6. Don’t Go
  7. Unguarded
  8. Cold (Feat. Fryars)
  9. Do You Even Know?
  10. Morne Fortune
  11. This Time
  12. Not Knowing