Angst, and production from Danger Mouse, make Little Broken Hearts her liveliest release yet.
A decade after her blockbuster debut album, Norah Jones is finally upset.
This isn't the usual pattern. Pop stars are supposed to start out lean, hungry, and pissed-off, and then slowly mellow out over time. But it would be difficult to imagine a more mellow starting point than 2002's diamond-selling Come Away With Me, with its drowsy tempos, economical instrumentation, and Jones's intimate delivery, which split the difference between "sultry" and "don't wake the baby."
She hasn't exactly started belting in the years since, but her voice has grown more confident and supple, moving away from the studied pseudo-jazz phrasing of her early records and into a more relaxed space. The immense success of Come Away with Me—it's often considered the first Starbucks hit—essentially gave her carte blanche to do whatever she wanted in music, and she's moved with her usual deliberation in several directions at once, playing comfortable alt-country as a member of the Little Willies, acting (or, perhaps, being one more ravishingly beautiful image) in Wong Kar-wai's My Blueberry Nights, and engaging in thoughtful team-ups with everyone from Herbie Hancock and Willie Nelson to Outkast and the Foo Fighters. In fact, the most recent release under her name, 2010's ...Featuring, was a compilation of those collaborations, spanning folk, soul, country, rock, jazz, hip-hop, and electronic music. Her solo records have kept pace, each one a bit more immediate and pop-oriented than the last, without ever quite letting go of the essentially soothing intimacy she made her name on.