“These are new beginnings” sings Rae Morris on ‘Reborn’, promising that she “won’t let the past determine where I go from here.” That statement encapsulates the confidence that much of her second album Someone Out There contains, an album composed and produced with Ben Garrett (better known as Fryars) – a professional relationship that blossomed into romance during their time together in the studio. What an exciting new beginning this is. From the album cover, a bright explosion of yellow compared to Unguarded’s muted mood, to the joyous day-glo electro-pop contained within, this is a glorious rebirth for the Blackpool singer.
Opener, ‘Push Me To My Limit’, is almost a misdirection, the mournful strings and simple brass section working with Morris’ breathy vocals to portray a melancholy air – but the slow build of synths towards the end act as a gateway into a whole new mood without the easy release of a crescendo. The aforementioned ‘Reborn’ could be a Bat For Lashes track with its inventive build and impeccable vocals – indeed, Someone Out There shares the same creative approach to adult pop music that Natasha Khan and Björk have excelled at for so long. Morris is moving away from the piano-led ballads of Unguarded, indeed literally so at times, as much of the album is based on, and aimed at, the dance floor. ‘Atletico (The Only One)’ has already been released as a single, and it contains as much sheer joy here as it did on first listen. With its ridiculously catchy chorus, combined with interesting synthy noodles and squiggles, it is a track that proves that Morris recognises the dual importance of both the art and the pop of art-pop.
The bloom of romance between Morris and Garrett adds an interesting wrinkle to proceedings, though the tropical-tinged ‘Do It’ has much more on its mind than just romance (“We could write another duet, or instead babe we could just do it”). Tracks like these are destined to be many couples’ ‘getting together’ songs, made symbolically by a couple getting together themselves. As with ‘Lower The Tone’, there is an undeniably relatable passion within that stops the mood from ever descending into overly saccharine sweetness. The absolute antithesis of a break-up album, it instead celebrates the joy of getting together (and getting it on).
The production is exceptional throughout, adding excitement and interest to tracks that could otherwise be routine piano ballads such as ‘Physical Form’ and ‘Rose Garden’ (the latter becoming an absolute banger). Someone Out There has been described in some quarters as ‘oddball pop’ or experimental in nature, but it is more a thrilling collision of top level electronic sounds with catchy-as-hell pop hooks and melodies. Indeed, the most straight-forward pop moment, the title track, feels slightly out of place, as if it belongs on a different album. Like an update to Mike Skinner telling you to, “Dry your eyes mate”, it will soundtrack many a lonely journey home after a bad Tinder date. At the opposite end of love, the elegantly beautiful ‘Dancing With Character’ forms an emotional finale with its tale of an elderly man dancing alone following the death of his wife. A warning after all of the preceding joy – tears may fall at this gorgeous moment.
Someone Out There is one of the finest pop albums for some time. It’s an exciting new beginning for Rae Morris, one that showcases her as a major talent – and one that is simply bursting with ideas, creativity and ingenuity but, most of all, joy. Long may it last.