Thursday, November 05, 2009

Norah Jones: "The Fall" (album review)

Even if you haven't loved Norah Jones' jazzy pop music up until now you definitely have to respect her for pushing her own musical boundaries.  That's exactly the impression one gets when one first reads the list of contributors enlisted for her forthcoming album The Fall (out November 17th).

Among the heavyweight rock talent performing are guitarist Marc Ribot (Tom Waits), the legendary Smokey Hormel (Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash), and many more.  A pair of co-writers from the indie world were brought in for a couple of songs in the form of alt-country star Ryan Adams and Okkervil River's Will Sheff.

Jones eases into the change with "Chasing Pirates", a charming mellow soul number.  Quickly thereafter though, we do get some hints of exploration.  Hints of reverb and dissonance can be heard clearly on "Even Though".  Sounding mostly like a typical Jones number "I Wouldn't Need You" sees her traditional piano replaced with Ribot's aching country-tinged guitar to great affect.  The influences are also clear on "It's Gonna Be", a tracks that begs comparisons to Tom Waits' loungey "Ice Cream Man".

However, as the album goes on it becomes clear that Jones really hasn't ventured too far from her roots.  Jazz and pop are still the solid foundation of her music.  Songs like "You Ruined Me", "December", and the playful "Man of the Hour" are vintage Jones.  The incredibly dull "Back To Manhattan" is also a jazz-based ditty.

The songwriter contributions of Adams and Sheff are also disappointing.  "Light As a Feather" sounds like any one of a hundred plodding half-thought out tunes Adams probably has laying around his living room.  Sheff's contribution is better, but it translates as little more than a slightly rockier Norah Jones number.

The Fall is a pleasant enough album, but it's one that promises more change and expansion of Jones' sound than it actually delivers.  In the end, who really cares if it doesn't endear her more to the indie rock world?  It's not like she's hurting for fans.


Best tracks: "I Wouldn't Need You", "It's Gonna Be"


Track listing for The Fall:
  • Chasing Pirates
  • Even Though
  • Light As a Feather
  • Young Blood
  • I Wouldn't Need You
  • Waiting
  • It's Gonna Be
  • You've Ruined Me
  • Back To Manhattan
  • Stuck
  • December
  • Tell Yer Mama
  • Man of the Hour
7.5/10
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1 comment:

Charles said...

Norah Jones has the kind of talent that will give her (if she wants) a thirty or forty year career in the music industry. Long after most of the current artists have been forgotten, Norah Jones will still be making music.