Norah Jones has always had a certain cool maturity. She’s spent the 10 years since her debut wooing audiences into submission with her soft, soulful vocals and gentle piano trills. So you can imagine the shock when she threatens to kill someone on “Miriam,” a track from her new record Little Broken Hearts.
“I’m going to say your name until you die,” she sings with a sort of malevolent patience, “I’m going to smile when I take your life.” The song is a slow burn, buried deep on an album full of these little aberrant moments. To be sure, Little Broken Hearts is a break-up record. Guided by producer Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse), Jones and her band occupy a middle ground between indie and jazz — like Feist, without the falsetto or the singsong intimacy.
The music is well-suited to Jones’s lyrics, which are as cutting as they are confessional. “You don’t have to tell the truth, because if you do I’ll tell it too,” she advises on “Say Goodbye”; “How does it feel to be the one shut out?” she asks with a strange satisfaction on the upbeat single “Happy Pills.” For all the emotional torment these little daggers imply, Jones delivers them with a defiant lack of gloom. The record succeeds because it explores desperate (and maybe violent) emotions while keeping Jones’s signature unflappability intact. These songs are the complaints of a jilted ex, as delivered by a commanding leading lady.