Dark and Mean

She has stuck to her style for a long time,experimenting sporadically with some side projects.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: June 16, 2012 3:52:31 am

With a voice so lush,punctuated with lyrics from her assorted songbook and some excellent piano hooks,Norah Jones could very well spend her whole life creating a variety of jazz and soft country cross over music. She has stuck to her style for a long time,experimenting sporadically with some side projects. The sweet-sounding Miss Mellow may have rarely ventured out of her comfort zone (The Fall was the only album that was all about interesting guitar riffs and not her regular soft piano chords). But four albums later,Jones,whose Dusty Sprigfield-ish voice has won her numerous accolades,experiments with Little Broken Hearts,her fifth studio album. And it is definitely a bold departure from the whispery songs from Come Fly With Me.

The album at the start of it may sound like a sequel to The Fall,thanks to the lyrics,all of which talk about a failed relationship and a motive to drive away the ghosts of it. And Jones delivers a sound that is unlike what the fans are expecting. She has collaborated with producer Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton (known for his production work with bands like The Black Keys and Gnarls Barkley),to present some dark sprinkles of lyrics with an ethereal haze by way of her husky tone and a hint of spookiness to the music. Even the cover art of the album is eye-catching that has Jones with red lipstick,dishevelled hair and loads of eyeliner screaming retro. Quite like Antoinette Christiani in the Mudhoney poster.

The 12-track album opens with a wistful and dreamy,Good Morning that comes with a simple,standard piano background peppered with strings and Jones’s quavery purr. It is after the sleepy first track that everything changes. Say Goodbye picks up pace and Jones swells it all up with her smoky voice. But the real highlight of the album is the title track that is stunningly dark with lyrics that go Little broken hearts of the night,Slowly picking up their knives,On the way to the fight,Tonight they want revenge. The song isn’t exactly retro,never hollers in your face but the impact is immaculate as Jones is sly and sounds as if she wants to kill slowly with a blunt knife. The haunting turn that the album takes at the third track is what continues in the little folksy She is 22 in which she addresses her lover and in Take it Back.

Then comes the drugged and drunken 4 Broken Hearts sung in a low key with a sluggish beat that can be visualised as being sung in an upstate bar. Another brilliant track is Travelling On,with Jones singing to a fine cello arrangement and the peppy Happy Pill. But the album is too long and the same kind of darkness tires you. So much so that you crave for a fresh,typically Norah track that is modern,slightly sloppy and comes with her brand of hypnotic jazz. But this will definitely give you a Norah that sings with a hint of meanness — something that we all have been waiting for.

suanshu.khurana@expressindia.com

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