Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head

May 20, 2008

Though actress Scarlett Johansson’s album debut, Anywhere I Lay My Head, is being excoriated by many American critics (while picking up some accolades by some UK ones), the fact of the matter is that it’s not that bad. In fact, it’s not bad at all, and often it’s quite good. The album is a collection of ten Tom Waits covers, along with one original, “Song For Jo,” written by Johansson with producer David Andrew Sitek (TV on the Radio). Now, let it be said that covers albums are a risky business: They can be revelatory, as with Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat: The Songs Of Leonard Cohen (recently released in a 20th anniversary edition, and something you should in fact check out), or they can be something of a disaster, as with Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait. Anywhere I Lay My Head lands somewhere between those two poles, further away from the disaster that its initial press would seem to indicate. The album sounds like Johansson is being backed by the Jesus and Mary Chain or This Mortal Coil, and when the album clicks, the result is lush, shimmering, and dreamily gorgeous tracks like “Falling Down,” “Fannin Street” and “I Wish I Was In New Orleans.” When the album doesn’t work, it’s mostly because Johansson’s vocals are lost in overly busy and dense production values. And how about those vocals? Well, she can sing just fine, but her voice often lacks the kind of character I associate with my favorite singers. She certainly doesn’t embarrass herself, however, and she sounds pretty good duetting with David Bowie. All in all, Anywhere I Lay My Head is an admittedly flawed, but worthy effort.


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