Review: Rae Morris – Unguarded

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Perfect debut

Morris proves herself to be a talented, creative singer-songwriter with a wonderfully crafted debut record.

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Rae Morris claims her place on the music scene with the release of her long awaited debut record Unguarded. With production from Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Charli XCX), Jim Eliot (Kylie Minogue, Ellie Goulding) as well as collaboration with singer-songwriter Fryars (Lily Allen), the album proves itself as not merely a straightforward, clichéd singer-songwriter pop record, but one with an experimental, creative twist.

Having collaborated with Bombay Bicycle Club on So Long, See You Tomorrow single ‘Luna’ with her punchy and mesmerising vocals, and also provided guest vocals for Clean Bandit’s ‘Up Again’, the artist has been influenced by their distinctly different styles and sounds. But with her first full-length record, Morris presents the music industry with a carefully elaborated mix of genre and form as she masters the emotive piano ballad with ‘Don’t Go’ on the one hand whilst showing her more upbeat pop-like side with ‘Love Again’ on the other.

Album opener ‘Skin’ with its haunting instrumental backdrop and lyrics ‘we break the rules and listen to our own skin, we break our hearts and pretty much everything‘ gives listeners an introduction into the personal concept of the album, a record about “figuring out who I am and what I want from everything”, as the 21-year-old explained in an interview.

The album soon moves into the quicker-paced and upbeat tracks ‘Under the Shadows’, which gained a huge amount of attention from BBC Radio 1 and XFM, and the newer ‘Love Again. With its punchier piano sound and multi-layered electronic production and chorus vocals, ‘Love Again’ gives the album that necessary upbeat track allowing Unguarded to be more than just a ‘singer-songwriter album’, with all its negative connotations.

‘Don’t Go’, the first single released by Morris following her signing to Atlantic Records aged just 18, is Unguarded‘s centrepiece with its heart-wrenchingly honest lyrics backed by simplistic yet effective strings and piano giving a taste of Morris’ earlier musical days.

However, with the newer track ‘Cold’ featuring Fryars, Morris’ maturity as an experimental singer-songwriter and pop artist become evident. With layered instrumentals, reverberating vocals and a more distinct modern-pop sound, Fryars’ production is clear here and gives the record a more nuanced effect showing Morris’ capability and openness to branching out from her piano-led ballads.

The album’s last addition ‘Morne Fortuné’ placed toward the end of the record is one of the tracks most unfamiliar to fans, and Morris’ surprise song, with a slightly different, Kate Bush-like sound. Album closer ‘Not Knowing’ is a slight reworking of the track of the same name from second EP, Grow. It proves as a well thought out concluding track with its reflective tone ‘we’ll speak not of the heart ache but the joy it brings‘.

With Unguarded, Rae Morris has proved herself to be a talented, creative artist who rightly deserves huge praise and recognition this year.

Unguarded is out now via Atlantic Records.

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English and Spanish undergrad, recent year abroader and aspiring vegan, blogging as hennacomoeltatuaje

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