Singer-songwriter’s debut strikes a chord

It should come as a real shock that Unguarded is Rae Morris’s debut album.  The 21-year-old has more than established herself in the music scene by opening for substantial artists like Tom Odell and Lianne La Havas as well as collaborating with Bombay Bicycle Club.  Although she’s a total vocal powerhouse, Morris has been patiently waiting in the wings and Unguarded proves that the wait was indeed worthwhile.

It’s a very polished first album.  Every track demonstrates vocal range, lyrical depth and ethereal instrumentals. ‘Don’t Go’, arguably the best song, is an emotional ballad that is lyrically poignant and whose undulating piano score drips with sentimentality.  With that said, the rest of the tracks seem to be stuck in a single mood of desperate longing. It’s an album that slugs (very pristinely) along. 

Morris never seems to let loose and let her dynamism out. The energy that she fired into Bombay Bicycle Club’s ‘Luna’ just isn’t there, which is a shame.  Although her idiosyncratic echoing makes an appearance in Unguarded, the usual infectious pulse is lacking. Morris has certainly taken a few tips from the big shots she’s worked with, as the album is put together very well.  Yet, there seems to be something lacking. 

At times, her vocal style sometimes resembles Ellie Goulding – with a certain high-pitched folk-infused emotiveness.  ‘Skin’ gets a little bit of the old Morris, which transmitted a kind of blissful naiveté. The issue is that the style, or sound of the album feels so fixed that it becomes predictable. Although everything sounds good, it is not especially memorable or impressive. One cannot deny that Morris is extremely talented, but that she may need to take some more musical risks. She’s become a little too self-conscious, and thus her sound feels a little inhibited.

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