Norah Jones switches from mellow to angst-ridden on her fourth album, with spectacular results, says Neil Spencer of The Guardian:
It doesn't take long to realise that The Fall is unveiling a rather different Ms Jones to the tasteful, piano-led balladeer of her first three albums. There are, for sure, a couple of familiar, wistful love calls, like the opening two cuts, "Chasing Pirates" and "Even Though", but the dominant sound is guitar-heavy, with an echoing atmosphere reminiscent of Tom Waits's Mule Variations. The similarity is no accident, the producer here being Waits veteran Jacquire King, who has set Jones's engaging, husky vocals in an ambience of clanging guitars, loping rhythms and electronic tics, courtesy of an array of New York sessioneers (and the singer herself).
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".
Then there's "It's Gonna Be", a broadside against the banality of vapid TV chat shows that rages to a funky electric keyboard and pounding drums. It's the sole song that doesn't dwell on affairs of the heart, which return, drolly, on "Man of the Hour". Asked to choose between "a vegan and a pothead", Norah settles for her fellow cover star, her pet dog. At 30, the enchanting Ms Jones has clearly become her own woman.