x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Norah Jones's Little Broken Hearts recaptures some of her fire

While every tune radiates with a vintage sonic glow, the songs themselves are not all first-rate.

Norah Jones

Little Broken Hearts

Blue Note 


Her velvety voice and easy-going songwriting made Norah Jones a multi-platinum artist, but the US singer quickly gained a reputation as the queen of coffee table music; crafting songs so soft and innocuous you could play them when your grandmother comes around to visit.

But Jones surprised many of her critics by appearing on last year's collaborative album Rome, alongside Jack White, the producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton and the Italian film score composer Daniele Luppi.

The vocal purity that at times seemed anodyne took on a new soulfulness when matched with Burton's retro beats and Luppi's luxurious strings.

The singer's fifth studio album sees her trying to recapture some of that fire – and succeeding, thanks in no small part to Burton's return as producer. The record's title effectively sums up its theme; almost every song seems to deal with heartache and Jones never sounds like she's putting it on. Its most gorgeous moment, 4 Broken Hearts, has all the glory of the early 1960s output of Dusty Springfield or Phil Spector.

The opener Good Morning shows Jones at her most ethereal, with swooping strings and a simple organ refrain, then the pace is quickly lifted by the light funk number Say Goodbye. While every tune radiates with a vintage sonic glow, the songs themselves are not all first-rate, such as the droning After the Fall and Travelin' On, which, ironically, feels rather directionless.

Buddying up with a hip producer might seem like an opportunistic move by Jones, but with the results this good – who can blame her?