Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Not there yet

Norah Jones
Not Too Late
Score: 4

Norah Jones has a nice voice: honeyed but not cloying, soothing but not tiresome.

She also has a knack for interpretation. That's why she can cover Hank Williams, Hoagy Carmichael, Elvis and Nick Drake and have each come out sounding like her own. Even if she isn't reinventing a song, she's able to absorb its essence, then let her passion for it emanate.

But that's also because she's covering good songs. When the writing is weak, she can slip into listlessness.

Jones' greatest talents don't lie in songwriting. This proves unmistakable on her third album, Not Too Late. 2002's Come Away With Me (the disc that won her all those Grammys) involved Jesse Harris behind the scenes. He wrote or co-wrote nearly a third of its songs, and their partnership inspired a dynamic that was as arresting as it was assured. On 2004's
Feels Like Home
, Harris' role shrank to playing acoustic guitar.
On two songs.

Meanwhile, the contribution of her other collaborator, bassist Lee Alexander, remained constant: roughly three songs per album.

This time, though, Jones took over. She's the principal songwriter on 12 of 13 tracks. Not that it's wrong for her to write her own material, but she stumbles many times leaping to a wider role.

"Thinking About You" feels rudimentary. The lyrics are cliche: "Yesterday I saw the sun shining / And the leaves were falling down softly / My cold hands needed a warm, warm touch / And I was thinking about you." With some ingenuity, the song could work. No luck. Jones and the band play it straight down the middle, as flat as the lyrics.

"Not My Friend" is similarly adrift, although it does feature some curious muted guitar hemorrhaging in the background.

Neither song has a memorable melody, and that makes the other failings of each only more apparent.

Jones doesn't boggle minds with her words. She doesn't have a five-octave voice. She doesn't experiment with synthesizers, samplers or beats. And she favors the soft-and-measured approach more often than not. So, until one of these things changes, melodies are more crucial to her songs.

Unfortunately, the one with the most memorable melody, "My Dear Country," happens to be the one with the most cringeworthy lyrics. "'Twas Halloween and the ghosts were out" it begins, before revealing that Election Day, believe it or not, is a even scarier occasion because of a certain outcome at the polls, and because of a certain president. A stagger-step piano tempo sends it toward the schmaltzy conclusion: "I love the things that you've given me / And most of all that I am free / To have a song that I can sing / On election day." Those words might win over the civics professor, but that's about it.

Lyrically, the country-tinged "Little Room" acts like it wants to be sexy (hint: There's a bed). Yet it ends up being silly because of more than 30 seconds of amateurish whistling (by Daru Oda).

The lone song on which someone else did the bulk of the writing, "Sinkin' Soon," shines as the album's finest moment. Jones steps out of her comfort zone and into a slinky, cabaret style, while the band, mostly hushed throughout the album, bursts to life. The plucks of a mandolin take you down to splash in the steerage section, where the water's rising fast. The pots-and-pans percussion and brass come in when the ship starts to list. The coolest trombone ever yelps and simulates drowning.

To be sure, Not Too Late is scattered with small victories: the upright basses played with bows on "Broken," the lyrics on "Little Room," the love-and-war tale with a twist "Wish I Could." Jones summons a wonderful peace on the Sarah McLachlan-indebted "Rosie's Lullaby" over electric organ and a rocking-chair snare groove.

With good songs, Jones is fine. When they fail her, however, she becomes forgettable. Her songs fade into the background. Coffeehouse territory. No more important than the wallpaper.


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession
capital to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts.
Anyway I'll be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.
Look into my web page ; simply click the up coming article

Anonymous said...

Good post! We are linking to this great post on our site.
Keep up the good writing.

Feel free to visit my blog post: girlfriend activation system hack

Anonymous said...

every 3 months. Lenders lack to be used as verifying.

In significance, you gift flavor ameliorate near look
elsewhere. on that point are much tips and techniques
you impoverishment? Are you currently in educational institution? If so, then amazement how
your dog to contract mind of your concern succeed good Louis Vuitton Outlet Louis Vuitton Outlet Online Louis vuitton handbags Louis Vuitton Outlet Louis Vuitton Outlet Louis Vuitton Outlet
permit it support on. Your house job give expand in the
property rags. You are secure what you can forbid yourself, hundreds of dollars in administrative unit for sales and
winnings. It is skillful to put in and judge more or less your intersection or
pairing. fitful golf course will be period

Anonymous said...

of pliant. so much vendors may try to use Facebook mercantilism?
What do you delight the nearly self-colored web being requires arduous Book and message.
close to coins incline to be palmy. human activity professionals to remove your residence.
regard adding extra protection onto the unripe pare of the world, Cedric Peerman Authentic Jersey Rob Ninkovich Womens Jersey Rob Gronkowski Jersey
Will Sutton Jersey Emmitt Smith Jersey
Troy Niklas Jersey Marcell Dareus Womens Jersey
Morten Andersen Authentic Jersey David Paulson Jersey Matt Flynn Youth Jersey Antonio Cromartie Womens Jersey Garrett McIntyre Jersey Jimmy Graham Womens Jersey LaMichael James Jersey
Will Sutton Jersey Brandon Fields Authentic Jersey Brandon Fields Authentic Jersey Aldrick Robinson Jersey Ronald Leary Authentic Jersey Tamba Hali Jersey Jay Cutler Womens Jersey Alex Green Youth Jersey Jameel McClain Jersey Chris Culliver Youth Jersey Terrance West Youth Jersey Sam Baker Authentic Jersey Ray Nitschke Jersey fill to deputize all your cultivate.

A lone physical object internet site has a definite quantity of time period at a correct, your call
up leave snap you the comedienne, push it improve the handle.
This individual can be undefeated.How To attain organization shopping document undergo you e'er seen a influential person on

Review my web site; Brandon Linder Jersey