Can Danger Mouse make Norah Jones cool?
After sweeping the Grammys with an Adele-like force in 2003, Norah Jones hasn't exactly had a disappointing career. But after three subsequent albums that showed signs of Jones stretching beyond the jazz-dusted nocturnal vibe that made "Come Away With Me" such a breakout hit, there's a nagging sense that we know what to expect from her.
Even with the occasional assistance of Okkervil River's Will Sheff and current indie darling Ryan Adams, her 2009 record "The Fall" was still, ultimately, a pretty typical Norah Jones record with low-key yet polished songs framing her gently sanded voice. Even her recent album with her side project the Little Willies earlier this year just felt like a more direct acknowledgement of the country elements that always hovered at the edges of Jones' music.
Co-written and produced by Brian Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse), Jones' upcoming album "Little Broken Hearts" could be the artistic left turn she needed. Jones' appearances on Danger Mouse's spaghetti western-informed 2011 album "Rome" added an element of danger to Jones' typically sultry vocals, and "Little Broken Hearts" seems intent on carrying that idea forward with a cover image cribbed from Russ Meyer's "Mudhoney."
The first single, "Happy Pills," came online Tuesday, and Burton's fingerprints aren't hard to see. Backed by a clockwork guitar pulse and heavy-footed drums that could be a half-speed outtake from the Broken Bells sessions, Jones sings with a mix of sass and yearning about getting over the wrong man with a classic R&B refrain of "Please just let me go now." Taken with a pinched, distant chorus of "nah, nah, nah," the song may not entirely put to rest the unfortunate "Snore-ah" Jones nickname among some circles, but it's a promising start.
Listen after the jump.
— Chris Barton
Photo of Norah Jones by Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times.