Norah Jones sometimes gets derided for being too downtempo – which, really, is like hating on peaches for being juicy. But her fifth album is a brand-rejigging songwriting collab with Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton that both picks up her pace and pumps up her palette. See “Happy Pills,” the bouncy single that triangulates the sexy bounce of the Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket” with a lite-soul kiss-off ballad and an AM-radio bubblegum tune. Call it Norah in Neon. Jones’ sweet-smoky purr has always sounded great with meaty grooves: Talib Kweli’s “Soon the New Day,” Wax Poetic’s “Angels.” Here, she frolics through reverb and gets frisky over Burton’s midtempo beats on “Say Goodbye,” savoring the word “misbehave” like a toddler with her hand in the cookie jar. It was fun to hear Jones, the archetypal girl-you’d-take-home-to-Mom, play the fallen woman on Burton’s Rome LP from last year. That project echoes through “All a Dream,” a ghostly mix of dub-reggae groove and spaghetti-Western guitar. On the best songs, the Danger Mouse thumbprint is fainter: “She’s 22” sets Jones against wisps of guitar and piano, while “Travelin’ On” mates her with a moaning cello. It’s a balancing act, which the lyrics occasionally upend – Jones as a murderous lover on “Miriam” is a near-comic stretch. But even good girls need revenge sometimes.
Listen to “Happy Pills”: