I couldn’t mention Rae Morris without mentioning the career she has built for herself over the past few years. Blossoming out of a healthy – but certainly not established – music scene in Blackpool and Preston, the singer-songwriter has come a long way from performing solo shows for free in her local park café, or from playing on Wednesday nights at the open-mic at Preston’s Mad Ferret, or from being played on the BBC Radio Lancashire Introducing show for the first time.
Despite the relative gargantuan heights of supporting and recording with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, George Ezra and Tom Odell, there’s still something of her history in this record – the beautiful ‘Do You Even Know’ was written in her shed back in Blackpool. The record as a whole sounds incredibly mature and complex for a début album, in fact it’s quite easy to forget that it is a début, perhaps this is due to the timing of the release, eventually deciding to emerge after six strong EPs.
With the fear of using too much ridiculous hyperbole, the vulnerability of this record is a step above any other contemporary pop musician at the moment. It has moments of strong influence from the singer-songwriter greats of the past, namely Kate Bush and – more recently – Joanna Newsom; Even ‘For You’ and ‘Morne Fortune’ have quite a subtle vocal homage to Bush’s ‘Wow’. Morris has mastered a gorgeous vocal technique, using it more as an extra layer to her music rather than just a leading force.
Over the course of her recording career so far, Rae Morris has not only developed her style as a songwriter, but has also found a production value that sits well alongside the brilliance of her lyrics, taking advantage of tempo and increasing and decreasing it when the record sees fit. In a similar fashion to her musical peers, Bombay Bicycle Club, Morris arguably manages to create a pretty unexpected, solid and palatable alternative dance record in its own right, bridging a number of genres along the way.
Those who know Morris from her early gigs will no doubt feel emotional listening to Unguarded. Tracks like ‘Don’t Go‘ feel like they’re from a time long forgotten – a time when she simply had that raw ability that everyone could see. Rae’s music has and always will be about her. There is no accidental moment on this album and everything is meticulously placed, showing a maturity in every way that everyone has always said she possesses.
Perhaps no one predicted her to be this successful, but this record justifies the hype that has escalated over the past three or four years. Unguarded does what it says on the tin. It is a stripped down expression of Morris’ vulnerability done to its highest standard. It really is a spectacular début record.
Rae Morris’ Unguarded is released on 26th of January via Atlantic Records.