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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rae Of Light

It is a terrible, yet universal truth that pop music is not really for people over 40. By that I mean chart music, songs designed to be on the cutting edge of cool, mainlining in to the hive consciousness of young people. I swore when a teenager that I would never end up like my mum, who couldn't let go of the 60s. I would always like new music, I wouldn't get stuck in a time warp. Sadly, if I'm honest, most new music bores me. I'm occasionally tempted by a great hit single, only to find the promising talent stretched thin over a whole album. Remember when albums had a dozen (at most) great tracks? When videos were innovative and mesmerising? When the artistry seemed more important than the celebrity? I was beginning to think I would never fall deeply for a new artist again. Then I heard Rae Morris.


Rae is a Blackpool lass who has slowly and surely built a loyal following since signing to Atlantic Records in 2011, when she had just turned 18. Refreshingly, instead of rushing to release an album, Rae has been honing her craft through the periodic release of increasingly brilliant singles and regular live performances. This week, finally, Rae has released her debut album, Unguarded and it has undoubtedly been worth the wait.

I first heard Rae when her fellow Atlantic artist Rumer shared one of her songs on Facebook. It was called Skin and both the song and the stunning video completely blew me away. The music was hypnotic, the lyrics pure poetry and Rae's voice was unique, original and fresh, yet with a knowingness that belies her youth. The video is a work of art, simple and elegant, full of ideas and gorgeous to watch. I must have played it a dozen times straight.


Rae's next single was the equally original Do You Even Know? and it cast another spell on me. The music pulses, pulling you in, and Rae's voice soars over it. The chorus is an incantation, vulnerable, but strong. Is it a plea or an accusation? Again I couldn't stop playing it, to the extent that my husband almost put me in rehab over it.


The video is another thoughtful and innovative peice, showing once more that this is an artist at work. Rae is a mannequin, frozen in a number of odd positions and places. Watch the video to the end, the pay off is so satisfying I actually whooped the first time I saw it.


Another single followed and another completely original sound. Cold was a duet with Fryars, and allowed Rae to explore a relationship in her songwriting from both sides. Again there is such maturity on display, the ability to channel emotions and feelings and transpose them in a way that we haven't heard a thousand times before. Rae's vocal is superb, edgy this time and melding beautifully with the electronically icy vocal by Fryars.


With Closer and Under The Shadows following as singles in the lead-up to the album's release, Unguarded already feels like a Greatest Hits album. There is not a weak link to be found throughout, this is a debut album on a par with The Kick Inside or Little Earthquakes.


My favourite song on the album was also Rae's debut single from way back in March 2012, Don't Go, which has been reworked for Unguarded. It is a haunting ballad that showcases Rae's majestic voice and her unerring ability to write a hook. Here is Rae performing it live.



As you can see, I am more than a bit taken with Miss Morris. I was thrilled to get to see her play live while back in the UK in September, in a tiny room under Brighton train station. I didn't doubt that she would sound as great live as on record, but what I didn't expect was that she would seem so in awe of her audience, as if she didn't quite yet understand how special she was. I realised that I was fortunate enough to witness a star being born, at the very cusp of explosion.


I wish great things for Rae Morris and I know one day I will be sitting in an arena somewhere waiting for her to perform and remembering that September night in Brighton and that special young woman back when it all began.

Unguarded is out now in the UK, international release dates to be announced. Visit raemorris.co.uk for more information and to sign up for Rae's newsletter. Here more of Rae's music on her YouTube Channel or on SoundCloud.

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