Review: A New ‘Day Breaks’ for Norah Jones

The jazz pop icon injects a subtle bitterness into her sweet new album.

Norah Jones' new album, Day Breaks, is undoubtedly a slow, smoky affair— it comes as no surprise that the opening track is titled "Burn." She sings, "your cigarette cuts through / I wear it like perfume" over an upright bass, and suddenly you're in a 1920's New York City jazz club. This is a more intense, more aggressive Norah Jones than we have ever seen, and it's something to behold.

The new record is tinged with a sweet bitterness in the vein of Billie Holiday or Rumer. A welcome return to jazz music after successful experiments with indie pop and rock— as great as her work with Billie Joe Armstrong was, Jones' return to her roots also shows us what she has learned the past couple years veering off her own beaten path.

Gone are the days of saccharine sweet "Don't Know Why," the song from Jones' celebrated debut, Come Away With Me. Hearkening back to the sound that won her eight Grammy Awards back in 2003, this new collection of songs is no less jazzy or sweet, but is imbued with a mature kind of reflectiveness. The musical core of the record is stripped back, relying on the warm sounds of an upright bass and piano and then, when you least expect it, songs like politically-charged "Flipside," with its chugging bass and cheeky lyrics come up. Jones has grown exponentially from her foray into different genres, and this record shows the fruit of her labors.

Her sonic repertoire is now bolstered with warbled guitars and faster rhythms. Much like another piano pop songstress who's shifting her image, Jones' new music would seem to go past sitting behind a piano when they're performed live. For every PIANO ballad ("And Then There Was You"), there's an experimental jazz-pop banger (title song "Day Breaks," which has post-punk vibes).

The appeal of Jones' music lies in how tender it is. Even with all her experience in darker forms of music, the record itself is no less accessible. Standout track "Carry On," which comes near the end of the record, best exemplifies Jones' power and her style: quiet music that can fill arenas as well as it could a jazz lounge.

Day Breaks is out now. Get it on on iTunes, and watch the lyric video for "Flipside" below.