Norah Jones
Visions


3.7
great

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
March 9th, 2024 | 3 replies


Release Date: 03/08/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A little change here, a little update there

Given the last 10-15 years of her career, it’s easy to forget just how omnipresent Norah Jones was in her heyday – and of course, by “heyday”, I mean her debut. Jones came out swinging from the get-go with her distinct blend of pop, jazz, folk, and country, and the result was an album that made her ubiquitous with popular music. Come Away With Me was lightning in a bottle, a perfect storm that was poppy enough for mainstream radio, yet tasteful enough that it could cater to more… shall we say, “refined” palates. And the fact that it was released on Blue Note? I’m sure that made some jazzheads raise an eyebrow as well.

So here’s the big question: was it really a perfect storm, or was Jones just the flavor of the week? Well… probably a mix of both. 50 million records sold is nothing to scoff at, but she never even got close to the success of her debut ever again. Like many others who’ve peaked early, Jones eventually became more of a niche artist. And after a few genre experiments here and there – the hazy indie pop of 2012’s Little Broken Hearts comes to mind – she’s settled into a nice holding pattern with her recent output. The music is safe, but reliable; the performances aren’t exceptional, but they get the job done. So when glancing at her new album Visions, with its unassuming cover art and title, it’s fair to expect this one to fall in line with her last few records.

Thankfully, to my surprise, Jones actually changes things up a bit here. That’s not to say the album is a radical reinvention of any kind, as many of her trademarks are still present here; it’s just that they’re framed a little differently. Instead of taking from Jones’ usual pop-meets-light-jazz formula, Visions opts more for electric blues and retro-soul stylings. Vintage piano passages meld with breezy guitar passages, as the singer-songwriter takes us through a lovely convergence of the old-school and the modern. Where this album stays consistent with its predecessors is in its temperament. Even the most energetic tracks, such as the brisk light rocker “Staring at the Wall” and the horn-adorned piano pop of “Running”, still exude that effortlessly calm and collected vibe that Jones is known for.

Even then, those two songs give us a glimpse into what sets Visions apart from Jones’ previous outings – most notably, a (somewhat) snappier pace and slight psychedelic touches. The psych influence is definitely new for her, but it makes a bit more sense when you consider what inspired the record in the first place. According to Jones on the Blue Note website:

“The reason I called the album Visions is because a lot of the ideas came in the middle of the night or in that moment right before sleep, and ‘Running’ was one of them where you’re half asleep and kind of jolted awake.”

I’d wager that this is where some of the woozy, spaced-out atmosphere comes from, especially on the slower cuts. One thing that reinforces this tone is the heavy reverb on the vocals, as heard on the minimalist guitar-backed title track and the droning waltzlike “Alone With My Thoughts”. But what really enhance the open spaces and expansive locales of the record are the little things. Those small artistic decisions that go a long way. The birds chirping in the background of “On My Way”, the lovely horns that sneak into the title track, the ebbing and flowing synth backdrop of “I’m Awake”... stuff like that adds so much more character and ambiance to the album. It all culminates in the lush, soulful closer “That’s Life,” a ballad rife with gorgeous backing harmonies and bluesy organ leads – bringing Visions to a strong close.

Still, this is a Norah Jones album at the end of the day. Even with these tweaks and alterations, Visions isn’t likely to sway you if you weren’t a fan of her previous outings. The soft-but-sultry vocals, the gentle vibes, and the love of all things old-school – you’ll find them in spades here, as they’ve been a part of her sound since the very beginning of her career. But it’s nice to know that she’s still willing to play around with the established formula, if ever so slightly. Those little adjustments and alterations go a long way in keeping her sound fresh, and that’s practically a necessity for a career spanning over two decades. Norah Jones may be the same artist who sang “Don’t Know Why” on the beach 22 years ago, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t taken steps to advance or update her core sound. Visions is solid proof of this.



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user ratings (11)
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Lovely little record we've got here. Nothing too groundbreaking, but I don't really expect "groundbreaking" from Norah Jones anyway :]





PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2024


1565 Comments


Always liked Norah Jones- will check this tonight. Great work Brendan

Koris
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Thanks man, I appreciate it! Honestly, I'm just glad that Norah Jones is still putting out music; she's always been one of my favorite comfort artists



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