“Good morning, my thoughts on leaving are back on the table, I thought you should know,” are the first lyrics you hear of Norah Jones’s latest and fifth album, Little Broken Hearts. That first track, “Good Morning,” sets a dark tone for the entire album that shadows a failed relationship and how she dealt with the pain, grief, and eventually the acceptance of its demise.
The album was produced by Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton who is known more for his moody and eerie musical taste than Norah’s signature jazzy piano-esque songs. In this collaboration, he created a unique sound layered with fuzzed tone guitars and thumbing drums. While her voice is still soft and rounded throughout the album, it is a great departure from her earlier sounds and may alienate her fans.
Gone is the “girl next door” image, and in its place is the alluring and sinister alter-ego who is wrestling with her mixed emotions about a breakup. In “Miriam,” for example, she threatens the life of the girl who stole her boyfriend, whispering, “Having fun in my big pretty house … Was it a game to you?” Later she adds, “You know you done me wrong, I’m gonna smile when I take your life.”
Not all the songs are about revenge; the sedating “Travelin’ On” focuses on her moving on in life without him. Mixed with tender cellos and cooing guitar strums, it’s almost a beautiful lullaby that will put you to sleep. It is easily my favorite song on the album, especially with her raw and relatable words, “Call me when you get where you’re going, I’ll keep traveling on… Don’t be too hard on yourself… We won’t leave this place any worse than when we came.” With those lyrics, she speaks volumes of forgiveness.
Only the album’s lead single, “Happy Pills,” takes on a brighter note — but don’t fooled by the uplifting beat. The song is clearly about leaving her ex. She sings breezily, ”Trying to pick up the pace, trying to make it so I never see your face again, time to throw this away, wanna make sure that you never waste my time again.” She is ready to walk away without looking back.
In the end, Norah’s intoxicating voice isn’t entirely lost behind the production, and despite the album having a somber and menacing tone, it leaves you feeling comfortably at ease.