05 November 2007

Norah Jones - "Not Too Late"

Not Too Late
Norah Jones
Original release date: 30 January 2007
CD list price: $18.98

Not Too Late may as well have been called Corpse Bride: Alternate Soundtrack.  Between the melancholy, often morose lyrics and the alternatively dreary and bombastic arrangements, this album feels as though it were Jones' tribute to Danny Elfman more than an artistic outgrowth of her own.  The album's opening number, "Wish I Could," tells of a woman who has not only lost her love to time and another woman, but to war.  It is a peculiar album opener, in that it does not instantly draw one's ear to the album.  In truth, on nearly any other album, this kind of song would be toward the middle or end.  The fact that Jones starts with it is telling; this is not an album meant for the background while you do housework.  This is a work of art and much as one cannot appreciate Claude Monet's efforts to create a snapshot with paint in one glance, one must truly listen to connect with Not Too Late.

Lyrically, as mentioned above, Not Too Late walks the line between melancholy and morose.  Indeed, one of the most upbeat lines from the entire album is on "Little Room": "There's bars on the window and if there was a fire, we'd burn up for sure/But that's just fine by me because we would be together ever more."  "My Dear Country" starts with a description of the ghosts of Halloween, and how quickly they were overshadowed by something far more sinister: Election Day.  It's at first unclear whether the song is in jest, but soon  Jones scathingly takes the media to task, remarking that they "know less than what they say," and bemoans the absence of a hero candidate.

If there is one chief complaint about Not Too Late, it might be that by its conclusion, the album feels dark.  Sometimes, a darker album makes sense in an artist's career (a perfect example being Gary Allan's Tough All Over, made in response to his wife's suicide).  Not Too Late leaves one wondering not what Jones was feeling or thinking while producing this album, but rather where she will go next.  Will she continue down this darker path, or will this album excise whatever demons rattled around in her this go-round?

For dedicated fans, there is a deluxe edition with an accompanying DVD, and you can also purchase five live tracks from iTunes.