When Norah Jones recorded Come Away with Me in 2002, she was an unsuspecting 22 years old, splitting her time between playing bar gigs and waiting tables. Now, some 10 years later, she’s the best-selling female artist of the decade, splitting her time between worldwide tours and recording alongside the music industry’s brightest.
On her fourth album, this year’s Little Broken Hearts, Jones continues to bank on the formula she’s made a career out of with a new collection of pretty little songs about breaking up and moving on. But in many ways, this album marks Jones’s biggest departure to date. In place of her usual cool sadness, we get lyrics that are downright spiteful. Early on, “She’s 22” finds Jones cooing about her old love’s younger flame over a twinkling piano line. A hazy guitar makes the whole thing seem downright relaxed, save for Jones’s voice, which drips with sly sarcasm. On “Miriam,” Jones delivers her own haunting take on the murder ballad, directed at (who else?) her ex’s new mistress.
Of course, Jones’s penchant for soft-spoken vengeance is nothing altogether new; she’s been making easily listening out of heartbreak for years now. What sets Little Broken Hearts apart from its predecessors lies in the production. The album, cowritten and produced by Joseph “Danger Mouse” Burton, takes a sizable step away from Jones’s soft-jazz roots to explore a whole new landscape of electronic sounds, funky grooves, and bass-driven beats.
“Part of why I was excited to work with him was a few songs with a different groove,” Jones told Complex.com earlier this year. “On my last record I was trying to experiment with stuff like that too. I love those kinds of sounds and I just didn’t necessarily always know how to get them or have the right vibe of the band. After a certain feel, you either have it or you don’t.”
Norah Jones plays the Santa Barbara Bowl this Tuesday, August 7, at 7 p.m. with opener Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons. Call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for tickets and info.