Hailing from the north of England, 21 year old Rae Morris released her debut record in January 2015. Does that name/voice sound familiar? It may do if you are a fan of indie/alt group Bombay Bicycle Club – Rae helped the band to write many of the standout tracks from their fourth and rather brilliant record So Long, See You Tomorrow.
Unguarded is an impressive debut record which showcases Rae’s beautiful vocals and skill at crafting piano ballads and borderline dance tracks. The record kicks off with “Skin,” a charming piano-led track that skillfully builds with echoey vocals and over-arching bass. This leads nicely into “Under the Shadows,” a great Kate Bush-esque driving dance track. “Closer” is another bass heavy club track which has the undertones of a famous track by Mark Morrison. “Love Again” is reminiscent of Florence and the Machine, and title-track “Unguarded” is another example of Rae’s love of foot tapping beat tracks.
But it is in the intimate and beautifully written ballads where this record shines. “For You” starts with Rae’s haunting vocals and is stark and naked compared to the surrounding heavily produced dance beats. “This Time” is a standout track. It is achingly perfect and full of emotion and raw experience. Rae is also a skilled lyricist, writing from the heart about past hurts and grand questions. On “Do You Even Know,” she sings beautifully about the pressures she faces: It’s brave to seek sometimes, but I’m not brave enough to get over / The many miles I’ve run, have only put more weight on my shoulders. And she sings of past love on “This Time”: From the force of something I can’t see, I fell off and on again / This time I’ll hold on / You’re the bricks and the mortar building me, up to where I long to be / This time I’ll hold on.
“Not Knowing” is a fantastic album closer with sweeping but delicate piano, and an orchestra arrangement helping Rae’s vocals to transcend as it builds and builds to a crescendo. This is an impressive debut record, and Rae Morris is destined for great things if she keeps writing from the heart. At only 21 years of age, I hope we hear a lot more from this fantastic new talent.