After her last coffee house jazz experiment Come Away with Me that was poached in swanky tunes and groovy melodies, Norah Jones has broken all barriers and surprised us all with her latest album Little Broken Hearts. Slightly dark and edgy, her fifth album explores heartbreak, betrayal, revenge and debilitating shame all in one go. Though her collaboration with Danger Mouse has led to the construction of new musical structures, Jones’s ability to forge her raspy twang with atmospheric sounds in some of the tracks is quite remarkable. Known for her lilting purrs and smoky voice, the singer has finally made a transition from country crossovers to darker contours of the sonic plateau.
The opening track Good Morning is filled with flashing synthesisers and melancholic violin pieces. Soaked in reverberating melodies, the track has a dreamy intimate groove that makes Jones’s falsetto come alive. In Say Goodbye, the singer regains her composure and energy over Burton’s down tempo beats. However, in most part of the song, the sound designs are so toned that the percussive bass lines and oriental melodies get lost.
The title track Little Broken Hearts too has a wispy yet balmy texture woven around arching melodies.
With this album, neither Jones nor Burton is in any rush to reach their final destination. Moreover, the entire album is a journey through ambient soundscapes. Quite often, one may find a razor-edged guitar line inspired by Sergio Leone spaghetti-Western sound that cuts through every melody and rhythm such as with 4 Broken Hearts.
While She's 22 has hints of a ballad that is set against the soothing sounds of guitar and piano, Travelin' On shifts the sonic templates to the moaning mode with the cello. Her grief is further strengthened on the penultimate track Miriam. Dripping with menace, the song in fact borders vengeance and anguish.
With splashes of a Western guitar riff, All a Dream has a dub-reggae groove that captures any wandering eye. Though Little Broken Hearts had its moments, it definitely walked a fine line between the indie-pop groove and hypnotic melodies of coffeehouse tracks.
However, with lyrical mastery and musical consistency, the album has just managed to click with the audiences. All in all, the Burton-Jones pairing certainly have a long way to go.