Throughout her career, Diana Krall has tried to avoid becoming just another silky-voiced cabaret-jazz nostalgia act. She spends a lot of time putting together her albums, often arranging songs around a central concept and emphasizing her piano improvisations as much as her vocals. She's also been slipping more contemporary pop into her repertoire of standards, an evolution that culminates in The Girl In The Other Room, which stacks seven Krall originals alongside covers of songs by Mose Allison, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, and Krall's new husband, Elvis Costello.
Costello also collaborated with Krall on the new songs, adding his typically bittersweet, evocative lyrics to melodies with Joni Mitchell-like ethereality. The results sound similar to Costello's somewhat dreary 2003 torch-song collection North, albeit much prettier. Already familiar with the flexibility and tension that jazz requires, Krall breaks the sorrowful mood of her own songs by adding sprightly piano, and by singing with more color.
As for the album's covers, her take on Mitchell's "Black Crow" is wonderfully dreamy, but she can't do much with Waits' "Temptation" or Costello's "Almost Blue," both of which were partially frozen when they were composed. Their presence on the record seems more conceptual: The Girl In The Other Room is mostly about the perils of scrambling toward a new relationship while life is already in shamblesan arc that Krall traces in the final four songs, all originals.
"Narrow Daylight" addresses how feeling bad can be addictive, while "Abandoned Masquerade" explicates how hope can be carried like a secret, and "I'm Coming Through" announces the full-fledged return of good times. And, in the gorgeous "Departure Bay," Krall compares her previously shattered emotional state to her coastal hometown, to be visited but not lived in. The Girl In The Other Room represents an experiment for Krall, and not an entirely successful one, but at the end of the record, having demonstrated the confidence to explain herself, she comes out with some of her most persuasive music yet.