Rae Morris is one of those artists who’s just been getting better and better with each release. Since signing a record deal on her 18th birthday, Morris has been sharing small glimpses as to what her ever-growing and loyal fan base can expect from her, starting at her debut album and going through to the six EPs she’s released over the past few years. Now 21, Morris has been given the time to perfect and nurture her artistry in order to deliver the best possible album, in the form of Unguarded.
Unguarded isn’t the pop album you’d expect at first. With production from the likes of Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Charli XCX and most recently Carly Rae Jepsen), Jim Eliot (Kylie Minogue, Ellie Goulding) along with a collaboration with singer/songwriter Fryars (Lilly Allen), the albums finds a neat balance between straight-forward pop with a light but effective experimental twist.
Whilst Morris’ whispered vocals flourish in tracks like “This Time” and the enchanting “Don’t Go”, there are times in the album where her voice isn’t allowed that freedom, that vulnerability. You can’t help but feel like some of the songs are a little too polished production-wise; this in turn, doesn’t allow her spellbinding voice to shine. This is most evident in some of the album’s singles: “Under the Shadows”, “Closer” and the Fryars featuring “Cold”.
However, there are some absolutely brilliant highlights on the album. “Don’t Go” for instance, is reupholstered with a refined edge, but still manages to capture that thrilling, hair-raising aesthetic. “Under the Shadows” too, is packed with catchy melodies reminiscent of Marina and The Diamonds. In both tracks, Rae sheds some light on the brighter elements of a relationship.
Yearning for more is something we’re all guilty of, especially when it’s for someone we love. But when it doesn’t work out, it’s the worst feeling in the world. How do you restart? How do you forget? Will you ever love again? These are all the questions you find yourself asking, and in “Love Again”, Morris addresses all of them. “I’ve been looking too hard for something / giving it all for nothing, trying too hard to love again” are the lyrics she coos over an oddly vibrant beat.
In “Morne Fortuné”, a slow-burning number carried by a simple piano melody finds Morris detailing a crumbling relationship slowly, and gradually it breaks apart. “There’s a storm coming / to protect us” she intones towards the end, before breaking into the chorus and allowing her angelic voice to soar ever higher. Here, Morris’ effort to make amends is rendered mute, and her desperate attempts at revival are lost.
At its core, Unguarded is an album that tackles the roller-coaster ride of a relationship. The highs and the lows, it’s all in here.