From the beginning, Norah Jones has recorded music accessible enough that you could forget how creative she was. She made albums that sounded so easy that you could forget how artful her vocals are. So she decided to get weird, just a little bit, making an excursion away from her piano into unlikely sounds. Neither country music nor Danger Mouse collaborations were exactly predictable. Day Breaks from 2016 saw her return to her jazzy roots, but it was a bit of a fakeout. After that, she took on collaborations, mixing and matching work over the next few years for what was essentially a compilation called Begin Again. She had some stray bits left over from those sessions, so Jones decided to collect them as an album. Oddly, the leftovers turned into one of her best releases.

Pick Me up off the Floor might not have had exciting beginnings. Odds and ends collections tend to be more about contractual obligations or releasing fans-only crumbs. This set, however, pulled together as such a stellar release for a handful of reasons. Of penultimate importance, the disc sounds like an album. The consistent production, mostly done by Jones, holds together somewhat diverse music. The album sounds bright and a little bit roomy. It’s a perfect fit for her songs that, while not conceptually connected, fit together as a singular listen with their persistence acknowledgment and resistance of despair.

Of ultimate importance, of course, the songs are simply that good. Her vision throughout the disc, often of grappling with isolation, wouldn’t matter if the tracks didn’t hold up. They do, and as consistent as they are in quality, Jones varies her sound and tone just enough to keep surprises throughout. Much of the album takes a jazzy look at heartbreak, but it slowly brings in elements of oppressive situations. “I’m Alive” offers a genre-blended response to both personal and systemic issues, while avoiding topical limitations. “She’s crushed by thoughts/ At night of men/ Who want her rights/ And usually win/ But she’s alive,” Jones sings. On a frequently dark album, Jones fights back here, but the song would be memorable if heard out of context.

Opener “How I Weep” offers a study of jazz-pop construction. The track moves across a steady pulse, but Jones and arranger Paul Wiancko fill the piece with little flourishes. Strings pop in an out; a viola and cello fit their pieces together, each partnering with Jones’s vocal melodies at times. She sometimes echoes herself on piano. Throughout, her phrasing remains immaculate. The song’s lyrical repetition and quick rhymes could have led to a singsong feel, but Jones finds the right places to pause or to hurry to create something new, even as her left hand steers everything straight.

“Flame Twin” changes to a more forceful performance, its texture roughed up with Moog and organ. Jones pushes further down a troubled string of thoughts, but before turning too dark sonically, she switches to a more pop sound for “Hurts to Be Alone.” This cut relies on internal misdirection, briefly denying the pain of loneliness. Jones doesn’t sound like she’s in a great place throughout the album, but she upends any despair with the performances themselves, ultimately finding lyrical hope, too. She pulls this potentially scattered energy into a tight focus, picking herself up. These songs, like Jones’s protagonists, were nearly left on the proverbial cutting room floor, but they’ve turned out to be stronger than anticipated.

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