“Good Morning/My thoughts on leaving/Are back on the table/I thought you should know”. These are the softly sang opening lines to Norah Jones’ newest album … Little Broken Hearts, in which she paired-up with producer Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) to create her most melancholically heartbreaking album to date. These opening lines should not only serve as a warning to her recently lost love interest (after all, Norah is about to spend 12 tracks making him look like an ass), but also to the listeners who are about to embark on this journey of her love-lost and heartbreak.
^Not the full song, but this is the best I could find.
Norah and Danger Mouse pairing up to create an album should not come as a total surprise to anyone that follows either party. Together, they began recording bits and pieces of projects here-and-there in 2009. Two years later we were graced with the gift of Rome, an ensemble collaboration album involving Danger Mouse, Daniel Luppi, Norah Jones, and everyone’s favorite … Jack White. Proving that Norah’s soft, smoky voice blended perfectly with Burton’s unique blend of peculiar beats, and his even more peculiar, ever-so-spooky instrumental arrangements, it was only natural they would record again in the future.
What is interesting, is that I personally feel very similar about each artist in their own respects. I immediately gravitate to bot Norah and Danger Mouse no matter what the project is they are working on. The stranger thing is, I’ve never been totally sure why. Sure Norah’s voice is sexy, smooth, and incredibly soothing. Her music is generally even fairly appealing to me as well, coming off as a combination of soft jazz and old country styles. Danger Mouse has even more of an appeal. On the Grey Album he combos one of my favorite rock albums with one of my favorite rap albums. He’s also collaborated with favorites of mine such acts as Beck, Paul Simonon (The Clash), and The Black Keys. That being said, I find myself growing slightly bored with both artists material at some points. Norah I always want to connect with a bit more, and Danger Mouse I always want to be a bit darker than what he actually comes off as. A good example is the misleading cover of the album. Yes, Norah does look like a shag-able minx on that cover art, but it also comes off to have a horror film appeal. Although the album is dark in its own right due to the subject matter of the lyrics, I can assure you it is far from horror film darkness.
… Little Broken Hearts begins with a shot straight to the senses with “Good Morning”. Slow arpeggio strings, followed by a soft guitar strum, and best of all, Norah’s lovely voice singing wonderfully worded lyrics about how she is out of love. You sink into this album instantly. The Second track, “Say Goodbye” picks up the pace a little bit, and due to the very Danger Mouse-esque beat, gets your head bobbing a bit. The album then slowly fades back down in pace, but without changing tone or topic one bit. After a few tracks, although a few do stand out as superior (“She’s 22”, “4 Broken Hearts”), the album does seem to begin to drag on. I understand heartbreak is quite a sensitive issue, and it may be great motivation to write some gut-wrenching lyrics, but a person can only take so much before you begin to stop feeling sorry for the love loss.
Just when you feel like the album should certainly be wrapping up, it does spring up into a bit of a different pace. Track 9, (“Out On the Road”) sounds like something she may have came up with while playing with her pseudo country band, The Little Willies. It’s a poppy little country ditty, that has a nice jazz bass line and some nice Danger Mouse production behind it. The subject matter of heartbreak and despair is still very present, but the vibe is a bit more fun.
This vibe carries over into the albums first single and very aptly named, “Happy Pills”. I say aptly named because in comparison to the rest of the album, it sounds like she may have downed a whole bottle of Lithium (music) and then cannonballed it with some hate-sex (lyrics) just before writing it. The last two tracks are among the most disappointing. This is majorly due to the fact that I believe “All A Dream”, (the final track) to have the most potential on the album but falls short. Clocking in at 6:30, and considering the slow driving force behind the song, I fully expected there to be an unleash of instruments to climax the album. Instead it just slowly presses on, never really building to anything.
I think I judge the album a bit harshly just because I want more out of each artist. By all means, the album sounds great. Pristine music/instrumentation, intelligently heartbreaking lyrics, and Norah’s incredibly beautiful voice all combo into a beautifully constructed album. All that to say, don’t be surprised if you do end up finding yourself just a bit bored by the end.
Can’t Miss: “Good Morning”, “Say Goodbye”, “She’s 22”, “Travelin’ On”
Can’t Hit: “Happy Pills”, “Miriam”, “Take It Back”