Norah Jones, the girl with the sultry breathy whisper, has a wild side. A wild side that can seductively pull you in while she sings something like Oh, I’m not the jealous type / Never been the killing kind / But I know what you did / So don’t put up a fight in “Miriam,” a ballad directed at a woman her man was having an affair with.
Jones’ new album, Little Broken Hearts, on which she collaborates with the genius Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse, is a fruity cocktail that mixes jazz with chamber pop and even some rock. Don’t be surprised if the beginning of the single “Happy Pills” reminds you of The Black Keys’ “Tighten Up.” On Little Broken Hearts she is a lover, a murderess; perhaps even a “fallen woman.” Ultimately, Jones redefines her girl-you-want-to-take-home-to-your-parents image by developing her seductive side. With the help of Danger Mouse, her classic ballads get a spin; they incorporate more strings and drums, and they have that ghostly feel, the kind that makes you feel like she’s whispering right into your hear.
The album begins with “Good Morning,” which sets up the whole premise of this record: Good morning / My thoughts on leaving are back on the table. Someone must have really hurt Jones in the past years, because she sounds like her heart has exploded into a million bits. It’s not a breakup album, it’s a recovery attempt. The track list is like an excavation into her psyche—with each song you’re digging your finger deeper into her wound.
One of the most delicious songs is the title track, “Little Broken Hearts,” a pulsating delicacy which makes use of a single stroke of a guitar that vibrates through the entire song, giving the illusion of a heartbeat in disintegration. What follows close behind is “After the Fall,” an embrace of new-found single-dom, as Jones sings Out on my own now / And I like how it feels.
Shortly after this assumed self-realization comes the first single off the album, “Happy Pills,” a bubblegum fantasy about feeling high after a devastating relationship has finally come to a close; With you gone, I’m alone / Makes me feel like I took happy pills.
But there is another regression, and the following song is “Miriam,” in which Jones confesses to the alleged mistress of her ex-boyfriend that she is about to put an end to her life—I’ve punished him from ear to ear / Now I’ve saved the best for you. Jones’ seductive whisper makes you sympathize with her cruel intentions, and you hope she gives the bitch real hell. Actually, the video for “Happy Pills” is like a prelude to “Miriam.”
The closing track is “All a Dream,” which perfectly punctuates the album as a wake-up call. After all a bad relationship is like a bad dream, if you pull yourself together quickly enough, you may just be able to feel the sunny day again. Jones laments her own failures, and her slow singing is accompanied by lazy drums and guitars that make the song sound like it belongs in a spaghetti western, you know that scene at dawn, when the few people left in the bar bathe in their own melancholia, while the barman puts the chairs on the tables.
Little Broken Hearts marks Jones’ stylistic evolution. It is most probably her best album so far, and the collaboration between her and Danger Mouse is a decisive factor. Somehow, she sounds even better than usual. Lyrically and musically, Jones sounds like a well-rounded artist in her own right. The poetic games she plays in her songs are devastatingly beautiful. Her cruel intentions will win your broken heart.
Trial tracks: “Happy Pills,” “Little Broken Hearts,” “Miriam,” “All a Dream”
By Radina Papukchieva
Follow me on twitter @Papukchieva