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Aural Pleasure Review

Norah Jones: 'Little Broken Hearts'

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Norah Jones has tried branching outside the pop-jazz that made her so very successful a decade ago before, calling on the likes of Dolly Parton, Ryan Adams, and key pieces of Tom Waits' crew (as well as two country albums with The Little Willies). All have hinted at bluesy or bluegrassy elements, but her fifth studio album (co-written and produced by Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton) is her most radical musical departure yet. They first hit the studio for a few days in 2009 to toy around on the top-secret project, but thankfully they saved the heavy lifting until last summer, following one of Jones' particularly bad breakups. The result is a moody, sour, and sad collection of tracks, tinged with reverb, string arrangements, pop, and fuzz. In line with all good breakup albums — think the Cure's Disintegration without all that despondent hide-the-knives depression shit — the new songs range from tragically sad ("She's 22" is one of the album's best, most beautiful, and heartbreaking tunes) to forced and uncomfortable (the poppy chug on "Happy Pills, which has Burton's fingerprints all over it, is borderline irritating). In spite of a couple of tracks where she falls flat, she's treading new water, and she's doing it swimmingly.

★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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