Little Broken Hearts
Brian Burton should work with everybody. The artist also known as Danger Mouse brought the best out of James Mercer after years collaborating together as Broken Bells, and now pulls Norah Jones out of her long slumber as the darling of adult contemporary with Little Broken Hearts. This Norah Jones is damaged, dangerous and vulnerable, and Burton's mastery of sound helps deepen the relationship between listener and song. On "Good Morning," Jones uses a Rhodes to echo her soft, sleepy purr, the momentum bolstered by a swell of cello that conveys the sun rising. In less capable hands, the effect could be cheesy; instead, it's immersive. There are dashes of humour amidst the lyrics' jagged edges. "She's 22" finds Jones wistful and incredulous about being jilted for a younger woman, repeatedly asking her former lover, "Are you happy?" like thoughts tumbling out over piano keys. But the standout is "Miriam," the woman behind all the trouble, and Little Broken Hearts' best track. Jones's vocals stretch out with a sinister echo atop stately, chamber-style rock as she coos, "Miriam, that's such a pretty name. And I'll keep saying it until you die." It's fun to hear the always cool, calm, wise-beyond-her-years Jones come unhinged, but it's also one of those rare perfect songs where the narrative and atmosphere coalesce perfectly, leaving no room for improvement.
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