By: Michael Dornan
15 February, 2018, 21:00
Should pop be a dirty word? Never, especially when forceful simplicity and a limited vocabulary can produce transcendent classics (e.g. Kylie, Abba, even Bieber). Singer Rae Morris expresses herself creatively in the purest form of pop and for whom sophomore record Someone Out There is a stride forward.
Debut album Unguarded showed melodic flexibility with occasional dreamy house touches, but was marred by boringness (perhaps encouraged by collaborator Chris Martin) that made some of its piano-led songs forgettable. Now with producer Fryars, she’s expanded her sonic dreamscape into bold electro pop, providing a blinding white canvas for her voice, sometimes Björk-ishly tender with Lancashire vowels (‘Physical Form’), or sky-scraping like Florence Welch (‘Reborn’). So when she crushes on a “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy” on ‘Atletico’ in melodies shaped as if by Grimes or the Cocteau Twins; when ‘Do It’s angles are as clean and its timbres as shiny as precision-tooled Carly Rae Jepsen; when ‘Dip My Toe’ becomes basically the Platonic ideal of a first non-platonic encounter; it’s all part of an overall thrilling sonic experience.
It’s all the more jarring, then, to have a return to schmaltz in the final quarter. Rae’s persona is anything but cynical, but when the title track wants to evoke Adele at her most lighters-aloft, the listener’s heart might sink. Some tracks here manage the marriage of strings, piano and beats well (‘Rose Garden’ which touches on mental health issues and recalls Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’ – how many songs can you say that about?), but a couple near its close seem to undermine the audio architecture that makes the rest of Someone Out There an effervescent joy.
Someone Out There is out now via Atlantic Records.