Combustible Celluloid

Scarlett Johansson: Anywhere I Lay My Head (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Heaven Can Waits

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Scarlett Johansson's Anywhere I Lay My Head on CD.

I don't really review music on this site, but I am familiar with Scarlett Johansson's work, so when I was given the opportunity to take an early listen to her new CD, I agreed. Given, she'll have a hard time since she's a known entity, rather than a newcomer that has been practicing music all her life, but I really like it, and I've been listening to it over and over. Johansson has always been noted for her smoky voice, with its hidden hesitations and sadness, and so her transition into singing makes a kind of sense. Fortunately, rather than a kind of Lavay Smith torch album (or worse, a slick, generic Jennifer Lopez or Jessica Simpson-type knockoff), Johansson and her collaborators have opted for a very interesting album consisting almost entirely of Tom Waits covers! (There's one original song, "Song for Jo.") Produced by David Andrew Sitek, the CD is beautifully mixed with thick layers, like velvet drapes; Scarlett's voice is nestled somewhere inside, rather than soaring above it. This could be a method to mask her limited range, but it also works extremely well. The single "Falling Down" is a dazzler, with its rising and falling banjo and piano notes, placed like stars against the song's dark canvas and Scarlett murmurs through the minor chords with sublime beauty. The Ramones already scored an amazing cover version of "I Don't Want to Grow Up," but Scarlett's is moodier and more enchanting. There are 11 cuts in all. Atco released it.

May 29, 2008

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