The computer keyboard seems foreign to me today, whereas I haven't posted in a fortnight or so. Since my last piece on the fizzled Hold Steady show, I have been to Florence and am now taking up residence in Nashville for the summer.
To the business at hand: Scarlett Johansson’s renditions of classic Tom Waits tunes on Anywhere I Lay My Head. I felt obligated to at least mention this unique release from Johansson because everyone else in the industry is doing so. Jon Pareles placed the album on his Times playlist, Stereogum covered it, and Paste Magazine put her on the cover.
Anywhere builds on contradictions. On one hand, you have the beautiful, young actress who starred in The Horse Whisper, then you have Waits -- does he really need explanation? Somehow, Johansson finds a middle ground on the record, making it not prophetically good, but not bad. Pareles praised producer David Steik (TV On The Radio) for the major success of the album.
Johansson finds a comfort zone on songs such as "Falling Down," but her vocal abilities ultimately lack the range needed to fulfill all the raspy, yet tonally-sound nuances of Waits. Give credit where credit is due; Johansson takes risks on this album, as would any artist attempting a Waits compilation. However, the low points on the record are over shadowed by the more fulfilling and developed tunes. It's hard to get Waits right, but any attempt is bold and should be commended.
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