Following guest vocals with Clean Bandit and Bombay Bicycle Club in 2014, Rae Morris takes centre stage with Unguarded. Overall, it is a pleasant listen, but not without its flaws.
The album’s first track, ‘Skin’, is the best song on the album. Opening with high piano keys intertwined with clock chimes, you can tell immediately how smart her debut is going to be. With so many twenty-somethings crying over their exes, it’s impressive to see someone come across as so authentic and sincere.
The range of the album’s scope is also a highlight. Morris is able to move from subtle ballads (‘This Time’), to pop singles (‘Closer’) with ease. By doing so, her confidence shines through.
However, Unguarded is not all roses. At times, the album feels overproduced. The song ‘Under The Shadows’ is a prime example of this. Too often, it feels like it is trying too hard to be the next Ellie Goulding single. All the interesting textures seen on tracks like ‘Skin’ are washed away here, leaving only a bland skeleton behind. While it is obviously radio-friendly, you get the impression it would have been so much better in another producer’s hands.
The album has a couple of dud tracks along the way too. ‘Cold’, a duet with Fryars, feels uninspired, as well as overproduced. So much in fact that the vocal effects on Fryars’ voice come across as jarring. ‘Love Again’ feels like a cynical checklist for the Radio 1 playlist, with generic lyrics such as “We could fall in love again,” as well as an IKEA-flatpacked Calvin Harris chorus. When placed next to genuinely authentic songs, it completely disrupts the album’s flow. It seems strange when great non-album tracks, such as ‘Grow’, did not make the final cut, but these two did. If Morris had gotten rid of these, she could have made an impressive 10-track, 40-minute album.
Let’s make this clear—for the most part, this is a really impressive debut, but Unguarded’s bad tracks and overproduction let the side down. A shame.