This album caught my attention more than other entries and for one reason. Tom Waits. I am a huge fan of Tom Waits and to hear an actress try to do good covers of his songs was intriguing. After all, while Tom Waits is (I consider) a hall of fame musician, he isn’t exactly a household name. If someone was out for a quick money grab, I could think of other musicians with more recognition to model my album after. Also, to anyone that has heard Waits knows he has a, shall we say, distinctive voice. To those that don’t it was once described “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.” So maybe this album will be something special I should pay attention to.
The first thing you notice is this doesn’t sound like a Tom Waits album at all. These aren’t the grunty rambling ballads you are used to and this seems to be a main point of criticisms among customers on Amazon. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. Scarlet could very well take the lyrics of Waits and translate them to another genre of music. That doesn’t make it bad; just different. So how do I describe the music here? To me it sounds like the music you would expect to hear in the background of the movie Lost in Translation. It is kind of indie pop music. I heard some compare it to Nico, but I prefer to compare Johansson to late Debbie Harry from Blondie. She has that same low sultry voice and all during it I expected her to sing “The Tide is High”.
Sadly, Johansson shows none of the same charisma in Harry as she sings. She always sings in a low register and never strains herself vocally. Scarlett is not that emotive and sounds like she drank NyQuil prior to stepping up to the mike. Now, that may be a bit harsh but I think of this as a missed opportunity for Scarlett to show her talents. She isn’t bad, and I give her credit I guess for knowing her limitations as a singer. But at the same time, no matter how good the rest of the album is, I won’t be stepping away thinking she is a great singer and that I need to rush to get her next album.
The album actually started out pretty good. The songs ‘Falling Down’ and ‘Anywhere I Lay My Head’ are early in the album and are the most memorable. This is where everything comes together with great composition and moody melodies. But then, the flaws start coming out in full force. The best way to describe this album is “drowsy”. Everything on this is so slooooooooooow and sleeeeeeeepy and low key. I swear I had this in my car radio while driving (and I started fully awake) but felt I was going to pass out behind the wheel. By the time you hit Track 8 all the songs start to drone together as one never ending mumble fest. It’s like wandering into open mike night at a bar and you can’t drag this one bitch off stage who wants to sing The Rose for the eighteenth-billionth time. Tracks 5-8 are one big blur and I had to slam my head against the steering wheel to stay awake. Track 9 is when she decides “Hey, maybe I should do something upbeat for a change.” Too bad it’s not any good. This is where the lack of charisma thing kind of kicks in. You see, the music may be upbeat and all that but Scarlett remains in her drug induced coma lower register and it is devoid of all life and joy. I would like to tell you about the final two tracks, but I can’t remember. And this isn’t like I am writing from memory two months later and just forgot. No, I just heard this album prior to writing this review.
In short, I would say this is an interesting failure. I give Scarlett high marks for effort. I mean, she tries to make her own mark covering a lesser known musical legend. She also knows her singing talents are more suited to a supporting role. She is an instrument in a band instead of a one woman show. But that being said, “Anywhere I Lay My Head” just doesn’t work. It is so caught up in being moody and low key it falls asleep in mid album. I plan on taking a few tracks from this album, plugging them into my iPod, and tossing the rest into my CD rack to collect dust. It is not enough to recommend that any of you buy this album though.