Nine-time Grammy Award winning musician Norah Jones is renowned for her diverse musical palate. The musician has jumped seamlessly between jazz, pop, rock, country and folk throughout her prosperous career. Day Breaks, Jones’ latest album, marks her return to the studio after a four-year hiatus. The singer’s Little Broken Hearts, released in 2012, was followed by a lengthy world tour. Afterwards, besides a few media appearances, Jones maintained a relatively low profile. Day Breaks provides fans with a measured, comprehensive showcase of Jones’ musical ability. The album does not attempt anything too flashy, and is a relatively safe return for Jones. Nevertheless, Day Breaks still manages to capture the vintage feel of earlier albums such as Come Away With Me, and provides a relaxing escape from the pressures of everyday life if one is willing to slow down and listen.
Day Breaks opens with “Burn,” an eerie lounge-jazz fusion track punctuated by solemn alto saxophone runs. “The plot begins with you and me in darklit rooms,” Jones croons over the plodding upright bass line, “Your cigarette cuts through; I wear it like perfume.” The feel is soon livened by “Flipside,” a dynamic track with a driving backbeat and a soaring organ. The chorus picks up the pace even more with Jones’ belting voice piercing through percussive piano and tambourine.
After the final notes of “Flipside,” the album soon begins to lose its grip on the listener. Jones fails to provide anything noteworthy through the middle of her album, the lowest point being “Don’t Be Denied,” a relatively straight-forward Neil Young cover with tinges of country and folk. The lyrics are not of a high pedigree and do not warrant simple instrumentation but rather a more complex feel. Furthermore, the cover choice and the style do nothing to elevate the album. “Don’t be Denied” marks a rather disappointing string of songs in the record, including “Once I Had a Laugh” and “Peace.”
The record is elevated out of this lull with “Sleeping Wild,” a pensive, ponderous, and beautifully crafted composition. “I love, adore you awake,” Jones wistfully sings, “but in the night, deceive you and leave you sleeping wild.” The melancholy tone of the lyrics is accentuated by the somber orchestral movements and the brighter piano work and somber bass rhythms. “Carry On,” the album’s first and only single, continues this upward trend and leads into “African Flower,” which calmly brings the record to a close with its soothing instrumentation.
Norah Jones visits Washington this weekend in a two-night stint at the Lincoln Theater. Jones will be playing songs from her new album along with a few popular hits. Get your last-minute tickets for the Sunday night show here!
With help from Ahmed “King” Latif(a)