Norah Jones is very good at being Norah Jones. That is not to say Norah Jones isn’t a good thing, but she most definitely has figured out a very specific formula for perpetuating the Norah Jones musical image. Little Broken Hearts, her last solo album prior to this newest release, was the first to really break the previously enforced mould of coffeehouse jazz/pop/folk that fit her velvety alto voice to a tee, by playing with heavier beats, darker sound, and more electronic influence (which had sort of started to creep in on The Fall in tracks like It’s Gonna Be). Personally, I was really hoping for an expansion on this newer sound on Day Breaks, but it seems she has gone back to what she has been good at all along.
The album is most reminiscent of her debut Come Away With Me (which, of course, is nothing at which to turn your nose up – Come Away With Me is a beautiful record). Day Breaks really digs back into those easy-listening jazzy routes that got Norah on the map in the first place. Unfortunately, though it is very pretty and has some wonderful and complex composed melodies, it becomes a very passive album. Even some of the singles feel a little bit like something you just throw on for dinner to underscore a conversation.
That said, some compositions on Day Breaks are just magnetic. The fourth track on the record, It’s A Wonderful Time for Love, is the typical autumnal jazz record on the surface, but the lyrics’ marriage with the composition in this piece is what makes it so gripping. Norah Jones was able to create that cool bounce of early jazz consistent with the rest of Day Breaks, but is able to use her pacing and melodic phrasing in order to punctuate each cynical and biting lyric, making them land much more clearly than many other tracks on the record. Other standouts on the album include single Flipside and title track Day Breaks, though all the tracks on Day Breaks are really worth a listen.
All in all, a great Norah Jones record, but nothing beyond my expectations whatsoever and, in the end, a record that feels a little safe.