A brightness haunts the shadows of “How I Weep,” the opening track of Norah Jones’ seventh album, Pick Me Up Off the Floor. Jones’ voice floats above the interplay among viola, cello, and piano, belying the melancholy of the sound with its dazzling tones. As Jones always does in her music, she cannily creates a sonic space between the notes where listeners can enter where they will, and her lyrics in the song live between ambiguity, uncertainty, and hope. The light shines beneath the darkness so that by the end of the song she can affirm: “I weep for the loss and the loss weeps for me / Then I realized I held it, it never held me / It had to hurt me to finally be gone / ’Cuz I made the mistake of dragging it on / And I wonder what kind of person am I / Who weeps for a loss but can’t tell it goodbye.”
The sometimes halting, sometimes exhilarating conversation between darkness and light animates every song on Pick Me Up Off the Floor. Jones creates an openness with her atmospheric piano, or the combination of organ and piano, inviting us into her world to share her pain or her joy. The minor chord blues “Flame Twin” rides on a lush blanket of piano notes in the opening measures, ascending briefly into a major chord before descending again into shimmering minor chords. The strains of Peter Remm’s B3 and his stunning electric guitar response to Jones’ piano create a soulful jazz blues. The slinky piano runs of “Hurts to Be Alone,” punctuated by a spooky B3, blossom into a transporting jazz rambler with the lush background vocals of Ruby Amanfu and Sam Ashworth. Bright piano chords open the gospel-inflected, moving “To Live.” Dave Guy’s trumpet and Leon Michel’s tenor sax ride above Jones’ piano as her vocals play call-and-response to the horns and keys. The bright tune shines a light on her embrace of living in the moment and the liberation of such a moment: “To live in the moment / And finally be free / Is what I was after / no chains holding me / If love is the answer / In front of my face / I’ll live in this moment / And find my true place.”
Pick Me Up Off the Floor radiates with lyrical brilliance and a musical genius, capturing the hope and light that lie within the ragged ambiguities of life. The sublime beauty of these songs lives within the listener even after the final notes of the closing song fade out.