Monday, February 5, 2018

Someone Out There | Rae Morris

Although Rae Morris' potential to become a power pop artist has been apparent since her career's beginning – even if she always has skewed a bit left field – her sophomore effort is a surprisingly fluorescent record for an artist whose last album was an overcast approach to pop with a singer-songwriter state of mind. Today's Rae Morris rides the waves of the most recent high-gloss pop revival – an era of newfound appreciation for bouncy beats and sugar-coated melodies. She, however, dials back pop music's typical titillating bombast, bending instead toward a Kate Bush quirkiness as she undertakes modern pop aerobics.

In that regard, Morris may also be the first artist to be an unabashed Björk fan – and sound like one. Her songwriting is catchy in an unorthodox way, and to boot, her voice is a distant echo of the strange Icelandic artist. It becomes most obvious when Morris' voice is stretched at the piercing midrange on Someone Out There, like on unfurling lead single "Reborn" and slower cut "Physical Form." And often enough, she's given clearance to smudge the pop music blueprints more than most label-label acts – except for maybe the very safe, two-stepping title track. It's admittedly charming in its own way, sounding as if it's meant to soundtrack a lonely wintertime scene in a mid-aughts drama movie.

"Do It" was lauded as the best stab at a tropical pop banger in a good without being a banger proper, but more striking dance tracks do exist on Someone Out There. On "Rose Garden," Morris' vocal lines stack on top of cascading string lines and build to the dissonance of a train whistle, triggering a pulsating pop beat to come alive. "Lower the Tone" politely – perhaps too politely – suggests mutually desired sexual advances, but it also grows into a hypnotic dance track as more elements skitter below Morris' digitized vocal line. And in a more traditionally catchy fashion, "Atletico" and "Dip My Toe" dance with sharp drum machines and lively melodies.

Someone Out There proves current, fun, dance-conscious pop music doesn't have to be topical or trivial. Written and recorded just before a romantic relationship formalized between Morris and primary collaborative songwriter and producer Fryars, the album bleeds the excitement that comes with a blossoming relationship. Yet when Morris is giddy, she's still composed ("Atletico," "Dip My Toe," "Do It"). When she slows the tempo, she remains hopeful ("Dancing with Character," "Reborn," "Someone Out There"). And regardless of her tone on this record, she's absolutely mesmerizing.

Someone Out There is available now under Atlantic Records.

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