The sounds you hear on Norah Jones' fourth album would scare the hell out of all but the most adventurous characters who populated her multi-platinum debut. For starters, producer Jacquire King's résumé includes outré records by Tom Waits and Modest Mouse. Jones co-wrote songs with Ryan Adams and Okkervil River's Will Sheff. And her band includes studio pros who have played with Beck, Erykah Badu and Johnny Cash. We're not in MOR Jazzland anymore.
Jones also steps away from her piano for most of The Fall, filling the spaces with sluggish, muffled guitar. She's been inching away from her reputation as a sophisticated artist for sophisticated adults since 2004's Feels Like Home. Her last album, 2007's political Not Too Late, was a baby step, but on The Fall Jones plays it totally cool and kinda dull, swathing tracks like "Chasing Pirates" and "Young Blood" in moody rattles and hums, while her rich, smooth voice glides over them. Yet she keeps her distance, never sinking too deep into the music. Many of the songs are about Jones' breakup with Lee Alexander, who helped shape her previous lullaby-like albums. On her own, she's discovered a big world out there filled with new sleepytime sounds. — Michael Gallucci