Norah Jones, “Pick Me Up Off the Floor” (Blue Note)
The torch-singing pianist’s records are always tasteful and never in the slightest hurry. And in the frantic, no-attention-span world we used to live in, her air of imperturbability could seem so becalmed that it sometimes bordered on the soporific. But now it’s a quality that comes in handy, amid global pandemic, economic collapse and civil unrest.
This album grew out of a series of mini-collaborations — with poet Sarah Oda, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and others — but hangs together cohesively. It revs up occasionally, as on the gospel-fired “Flame Twin.” But usually, “Pick Me Up” is happy to settle into a deeply comfortable, languorous groove.
It really finds itself in a stretch of three thematically linked songs about essential stuff: “This Life,” “To Live” and “I’m Alive.” In the last one, written with Tweedy, Jones sings about a woman finding her strength. The first one captures a common feeling these days: “This life as we know it,” Jones sings, “is over.”
Dan Deluca, Philadelphia Inquirer
The 1975, “Notes on a Conditional Form” (Interscope)
The sheer sprawl of this album — 80 minutes, 22 tracks — is both maddening and impressive. The self-aware British quartet, fronted by Matt Healy, opens “Notes” as they have their previous three albums, with a version of “The 1975,” this time with a voice-over speech from teen climate activist Greta Thunberg. Then, abruptly, comes the punky, Blur-ry rush of “People,” followed by a sedate orchestral instrumental, then the heavily Auto-Tuned electropop of “Frail State of Mind.”
What “Notes” lacks in coherence it makes up for in breadth and invention. Some of us might be partial to the My Bloody Valentine dream pop of “Then Because She Goes.” Others to the acoustic guitar ballad of “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” (a duet with Phoebe Bridgers). Others to loping singalong “Roadkill.” That’s a typically whiplashing (and satisfying) three-song stretch. All in all, this is a rewarding, disorienting hodgepodge.
Steve Klinge, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Bob Dylan, “Rough and Rowdy Ways”
• Phoebe Bridgers, “Punisher”
• Jason Mraz, “Look for the Good”
• Neil Young, “Homegrown”