THE FALL (NORAH JONES)

THE STORY SO FAR:

Norah has taken a new direction on the The Fall, experimenting with different sounds and a new set of collaborators, including Jacquire King, a noted producer and engineer who has worked with Kings of Leon, Tom Waits and Modest Mouse. Jones enlisted several songwriting collaborators, including Ryan Adams and Okkervil River’s Will Sheff, as well as her frequent partners Jesse Harris & Richard Julian. Musicians include drummers Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.) and James Gadson (Bill Withers), keyboardist James Poyser (Erykah Badu, Al Green), and guitarists Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello) and Smokey Hormel (Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer). The first single/video is for the album’s lead track ‘Chasing Pirates’.

TRACK LIST

1. Chasing Pirates
2. Even Though
3. Light As A Feather
4. Young Blood
5. I Wouldn’t Need You
6. Waiting
7. It’s Gonna Be
8. You’ve Ruined Me
9. Back To Manhattan
10. Stuck
11. December
12. Tell Yer Mama
13. Man of the Hour

THE CRITICISM:

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”.

Norah’s regular band is gone, as is her long-time beau and bass player, Lee Alexander; the couple split 18 months ago. It’s perhaps little surprise that her songs boast a new-found toughness, their scenarios plucked from the chaotic emotional life of a single New Yorker. “Back to Manhattan” finds Norah torn between lovers on opposite sides of the river, while “Stuck”, co-written with Texan rocker Will Sheff, describes a drunken, unhappy night on the town. She’s either bereft – in “the loneliest place I have known” on the austerely beautiful “December” – or vengeful, vowing to “tape your picture over his” on the churning “Young Blood”, and delivering a righteous, southern “you done me wrong” on “Tell Yer Mama”.


“The Fall” is one of the most impressive reinventions I’ve heard in the last decade. Striking out into a style that suits her a little better, Jones has found new wings. While “Chasing Pirates” is a little too poppy for her sensibilities, the later tracks bring it back to a place of comfort. If you fell in love with Jones’ previous efforts, then this will be a welcome addition. Truly, this is one of the best albums of 2009.

THE BREAKDOWN

Final Score:  98% – A

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