We love a good female singer-songwriter in this country. We are, after all, a nation that somehow made a star out of aural Ryvita Dido and of course Katie Melua, who makes euthanasia seem attractive. There’s now a rather large space for an accessible female voice to straddle the commercial and emotional, a household name in the making and ideally someone who doesn’t induce a medical coma. Unguarded confirms something we’ve known for quite some time: Rae Morris is that person.
Why? For a start, writing a catchy hook seems to be embedded in the Blackpool girl’s pulse. Upbeat alt-pop tracks like Closer and Under The Shadows sing with joyous potential, breezy to the point we might actually fall over. Capturing the piano-driven flavour du jour, these are immaculate, perfectly written songs that seem far too advanced for a debut.
More importantly, Morris shines with her ballads. Whether it’s Skin or the title track, or the marvellous Don’t Go, each is an ode to a lover that is dripped in a sincerity hard to find these days. The innocence that pours from Morris “calling future love” on Unguarded is the sort that’s ridiculously easy to root for, and it’s a sense she maintains throughout the course of the record.
It’s hard to believe that this is all the work of a newcomer. Tightly-produced and never outstaying its welcome, this is a record that tackles that old dog of romance with brand new zest, and even at its most potentially cloying (This Time) remains quite palatable. For an album titled Unguarded, then, Morris shows a remarkable amount of restraint in all the right places; incidentally it results in a stronger album, and the veritable birth of a homegrown star.