Critical Writings

Articles and Reviews: MUSIC

Anywhere I Lay My Head
by Scarlett Johansson (Acto/Rhino)

Scarlett Johansson is the one truly iconic female movie star of the 21st century, partly because she makes it all look so easy. However, history is littered with the corpses of thespians who thought they could sing, even more than singers who thought they could act. The good news is that while this collection of Tom Waits covers doesn’t owe much to the originals, it does demonstrate Johansson’s sensitivity towards the more arcane byways of her subject’s work. For such a cuddly, curvy screen presence, her voice turns out to be a surprisingly low contralto. However it is located inside rather than on top of the mix, with producer David Sitek (of TV On The Radio) opting for dreamy, alt.rock soundscapes which owe a lot to the mid-’80s 4AD sound pioneered by Ivo Watts Russell with This Mortal Coil and the Cocteau Twins. So discernable is the heavily reverbed wash of treated guitars and atmospheric keyboards, with vocals just another instrument in an amorphous wash of sound, that it is no surprise to learn that Sitek invited Watts Russell to sequence the album. The result is perfectly soporific by times, but in a good way: for whom, among the xx population at least, would not be partial to falling asleep beside Ms. Johansson – preferably post-coitally?

First published in Magill, June/July 2008

















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