Too-Smooth Jones Lulls a Jazzy Coma

Picture 7Freakishly mellow songwriter Norah Jones’ fourth album, The Fall, is lovely and cohesive: Lyrics are intelligent every time, Norah’s voice is rich and pure every time and the guitar part is catchy every time. And I do mean every time. Over and over again.

Lead single “Chasing Pirates” is built off a repetitive bassline, lighthearted and somewhat salsa-inspired. Pair with a stock drumbeat and Norah’s honeyed vocals, it’s ostensibly a slow-paced, tender love song. But it’s hard to be sure. I might have gotten it confused with the 12 other cuts on the album, almost all of which rely on a simple bass rhythm, sparse drumbeat and soulful lyrics in identical dulcet tones.

Taken separately, each track is well crafted and easy on the ears. Combined, they blend into an hour of numbing lounge beats that increasingly resemble the type of tin you ignore in line at Starbucks.

Come to think of it, that might be what Jones was going for.

“Young Blood” breaks from the languid, yearning tones mold; a quickening and evocative storyline about a vampire (what else?) promises intense build-up, but just when we crave a full, throaty chorus, the track falls back to its original speed and starts to blend into the surrounding sea of mass-produced love songs.

“It’s Gonna Be” is the breakout star, by sheer dint of being the most memorable. Here, that hesitant bass finally fleshes out and comes into its own, the beat deep and insistent a la “Seven Nation Army.” Norah’s voice turns the charcoal kind of smoky and swells in attitude, dragged yowling up and down the scale by a zippety piano, gauzy wall-of-sound guitar and drum that finally drills past our earlobes.

The Fall is an atmospheric LP for a cozy night at home. Put it on as background for higher thoughts, and enjoy like you would a fuzzy Target blanket.

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