22 May, 2008

The Scarlett Letter

Is it a cliche to be an indie film star and make albums these days? It started way back when with Phantom Planet and Rooney. Now we've moved to Coconut Records (Jason Schwartzman), She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward), and Scarlett Johansson's little Tom Waits treatise Anywhere I Lay My Head. The first two bands I mentioned were fun, if not amazingly talented. Coconut Records and She & Him are currently riding on a lot of hype, although I found these records fairly entertaining. The last, and most current release has to be the most disappointing.

Scarlett Johansson is gorgeous. I'm not a great fan of her work, but I do love Woody Allen (who seems to have an eye for finding clever women and men to star in his films) and he's a big fan. Unfortunately, beauty and cleverness are not equivalent to talent in the music department. Equally unfortunate are the production values on this album. I had to turn my volume way up to even register Scarlett's voice on most of these tracks, and when I had the volume that high all of the other sounds became muddy and incoherent. Admittedly, Tom Waits seems to be a fan of muddy and dark sounds, but he achieves these sounds in a way that does not sacrifice the intelligibility of his vocals. Johansson never even seems to reach coherency on this album, instead mumbling in a voice that sounds like it's being stretched to its depth. The sound is the opposite of gorgeous; with vocals that are week and lachrymal, Moaning Myrtle comes to mind or maybe hoarse mermaids. I'm not quite sure how to categorize my disappointment, just let it be known that Anywhere I Lay My Head is disappointing.

No comments: