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CD Review: Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts (Blue Note/EMI)

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Norah Jones Little Broken Hearts

Norah Jones has always been an artist who’s honestly channeled what’s she’s going through in life in her work. And if that’s so, then damn, she must have gone through a pretty painful breakup in her personal life, because her 2012 release, Little Broken Hearts is infused with heartbreak. But, lucky for us, that heartbreak has translated into very potent and compelling music. Check out “She’s 22”, a direct address to the man who left her for a younger woman, with the haunting refrain of “Does she make you happy?” All is not gloom and doom here, however; “Say Goodbye”, for example, is as much about moving on to a brighter future as it is about regrets over the past. To pump up her heartfelt songs, Jones worked with producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, who gives her music a grungier, heavier feel than it’s had on past albums, while still retaining some of jazzy feel of her initial albums. Opener “Good Morning” is stunning in its minimalism, combining slinky guitar, a repeated keyboard sequence, spacy synths, and subdued strings to create an aura of sadness that perfectly suits Jones’ understated vocal. Throughout, her singing is as polished as ever—she can’t help having that velvety voice—but her collaboration with Burton has brought out a new sincerity and emotion not heard in her work before. And the songwriting is consistently confident and masterful. Fans of Jones’ earlier, smoother, jazzier releases may need some time to warm up to this stark, bold work, but Little Broken Hearts is the sound of an artist in full command of her talents and her craft, and it gets better with every play.

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