New Music Reviews: Bad Bunny, Rae Morris, and Linda Hoover

It’s an eclectic bunch this week – Puerto Rican superstar rapper Bad Bunny and English art-pop from Rae Morris. There’s also a new vintage release, with Linda Hoover’s 1970 album finally released from the archives. Notably, half of the songs were written by the young songwriting team Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, before they formed Steely Dan.

Bad Bunny

Un Verano Sin Ti

2022, 9/10
Puerto Rican singer and rapper Bad Bunny is arguably the world’s biggest music star, the most streamed artist on Spotify in 2020 and 2021. In between acting (he’s set to star in an upcoming Marvel film), dabbling in professional wrestling, and running his own charitable foundation, named the Good Bunny Foundation, he’s released his fourth studio album. Un Verano Sin Ti is only the second all-Spanish album to top the Billboard Album Chart. A 23-track, 80-minute, non-English record sounds like a tough sell, but Un Verano Sin Ti is admirably diverse, all the while keeping Benito Ocasio in the centre of proceedings.

Bad Bunny began his recording his career as a trap and reggaeton artist. There are still some stripped-down tracks on Un Verano Sin Ti, but other times he’s immersing himself into other Latin genres. On ‘Después de la Playa’ he veers into mambo, while ‘Ojitos Lindos’ is an ace collaboration with Colombian band Bomba Estéreo.

Un Verano Sin Ti is impressive, Bad Bunny keeping up momentum over a lengthy blockbuster.

Rae Morris


2022, 8/10
Blackpool’s Rae Morris third album is also her third reinvention. On her first album, she was a piano-based singer-songwriter, on her second she was a pop artist, and on Rachel@Fairyland she’s in fantastical territory, surrounding her songs with strings that recall an earlier era. In the wake of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ reentering the charts, it’s probably a good time to release an eccentric English art-pop record, although Rachel@Fairyland is decidedly esoteric. Morris told The Guardian that “I want to be a national treasure, but the things I like are quite weird”. Morris’ vocals are terrific, handling the sophisticated and eccentric songs with aplomb , and her personality is sweet and guileless.

She’s almost unbearably sweet on ‘A Table For Two’, a song of devotion beyond death – “So if you’re down on Earth/And I’m up in the skies/I’d hope that you might choke and die/So I could stare forever right into your eyes.” Morris and her producer/husband Fryars dialogue sweetly on ‘Go Dancing’. The heart of the record is string-infused art-pop like ‘Running Shoes’ and ‘The Carrot’ – the latter approaches Broadway territory. The major stylistic detour is ‘Low Brow’, Morris lustily recalling a lesbian relationship over a more modern beat.

It’s easy to cheer for Morris – her voice is lovely and her songs are charming – Rachel@Fairyland opens up some fascinating new territory for her.

Linda Hoover

I Mean To Shine

1970/2022, 7.5/10
New Jersey’s Linda Hoover was discovered by producer Gary Katz. In 1970 he introduced her to some other young musicians he was working with, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. The pair wrote five songs for Hoover’s debut and also played on the sessions. Recorded a couple of years before Steely Dan debuted, I Mean to Shine is a fascinating look into Steely Dan’s early history. The band have more country influence than they would on their later work, while they met future Steely Dan guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter during these sessions. Hoover is an uncomfortable match for Becker and Fagen’s subversive songs – she sings well and has a hint of Grace Slick’s stridency in her vocals but is too wholesome for the arrangement to have worked long-term.

Becker and Fagen’s songs are certainly subversive – the title track is about a woman ditching her lover as she aims for the stars, while the chorus of ‘Jones’ reads “But a monkey on a silver string / ain’t really all that bad/Just waiting ’til my Jones comes down on me”. In comparison, Hoover’s own material is pure and innocent – she wrote ‘Mama Tears’ about missing her mother. The covers from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Band are enjoyable. ‘4+20’, is expanded from a Stephen Stills solo arrangement on the original, Richard Manuel’s ‘In A Station’.

I Mean To Shine was shelved for more than fifty years – the record company had a publishing deal and wasn’t interested in releasing an album with only three Hoover originals. But now available as of Record Store Day 2022, it’s an insight into the formative era of Steely Dan.

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  1. Surely, you won’t be surprised I’m most intrigued by the Linda Hoover album. Based on the sound, the Steely Dan connection isn’t obvious, but it is cool to finally hear these songs. I’m definitely planning to spend more time with this album!

    • Yeah, it’s different from Steely Dan’s later stuff. Fagen and Becker probably didn’t have as much control here. There’s some folk/country in Steely Dan’s early records, but not as much as there is here.

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