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Norah Jones - Little Broken Hearts - Blue Note/Capitol

Since the announcement of Little Broken Hearts, the new studio album from Norah Jones, lots of critics have alluded to a change in direction. Initially, that was due in part to her collaboration with producer Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) whose tactics behind the board have been well documented with bands like The Black Keys, Beck, Broken Bells and Gnarls Barkley. But it would be somewhat misleading to say a sonic shift wasn’t something we saw coming with Norah’s last few projects. In fact, she worked previously with Burton as part of his Rome project with Daniele Luppi. So what is it about this new collection that sets it apart from Jones’ previous works? Well, quite simply, it’s the subject of the songs.

Little Broken Hearts can’t be confused with anything but a break-up album. It’s a rather dark collection of songs, a side we’ve rarely seen from Jones and certainly not to this extent. The songs deal with lost love from a variety of different viewpoints. The most jarring comes towards the end of the album. On "Miriam," one of standout moments on the album (and also one of the most bone-chilling), Jones suggests life-threatening revenge on her ex's lover. While a fictitious moment, it doesn't lack drama. Jones only slightly tries to disguise the heartache with the bouncy, almost tongue-in-cheek first single "Happy Pills." And she once again questions infidelity on the soft and somber "She’s 22."

Working your way through Little Broken Hearts is as engaging as it is uncomfortable at times. And to that, you have to appreciate what Jones has done on a couple different levels. Circling back to her work with Burton, his production style is not exactly familiar territory for Norah but she embraces it and the results are refreshing. In terms of the subject matter, she is an open book. And after listening, it’s hard not to look at this as a courageous effort and pivotal album in a catalog of a celebrated artist.

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