Norah Jones has been releasing albums pretty consistently since 2002, but besides the rollicking Little Broken Hearts in 2012, her overwhelming early work on Feels Like Home and Come Away With Me still hits the hardest. I hadn’t sat down to listen to a full Norah Jones album in forever until I got the pleasure of reviewing Pick Me Up Off The Floor.
The best thing about Pick Me Up Off the Floor is not the flashes of sudden insight that her earlier work reflected—although she still has a few of those—but rather a doubling down on a new sonic imagination of the world.
Her voice is still husky and just a little bit rougher around the edges. This is not just a typical jazzy alt-pop record: she has made something slow-burning and honey-soaked and immensely original. What Pick Me Up Off The Floor lacks in surprising rhyme schemes it makes up for in musical cohesiveness.
Every song has something redeemable on it. “To Live” almost touches saccharinity, but its buoyant trumpet section makes up for that. The slow-moving strings on “Were You Watching” are smoky and delicious, and while “Stumble On My Way” is simple, it’s also strong.
The lack of lyrical surprise in her couplets makes it a little less fun to listen to individual songs on repeat. (“Everybody is my friend / until I run into my end” she sings on “Hurts To Be Alone.”) But I like how Jones does not swallow her lyrics, even when they are a bit oversimplified; she allows them to exist as a part of the work and moves on through.
Jones’s sheer ability to reinvent herself is in and of itself a good enough reason to listen. The lyrics work best when she is a bit more self-aware, as she comments in “Say No More” on how she is perceived by the outside world: “you might find me a little undone / you might find me strange.”
“I’m Alive” reminded me the most of her old work, with classically simple and devastating lyrics. ‘If I should break my silent streak / will knives come out to cut my cheek?’ strikes powerfully, maturely.
The fluttering guitar in the final song, “Heaven Above,” is the album’s clincher. It brings us right up close, finally leaning in to the intimacy that we’ve been craving from Norah Jones for the whole album. The instrumentals are lightly caressing one another, refusing to overwhelm, but still saturating us with feeling and color.