Album: Scarlett Johansson, Anywhere I Lay My Head, (RHINO)

The other Johansson girl
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The Independent Culture

The Hollywood hottie it’s respectable to like: it was always clear that if Scarlett Johansson launched a musical career, it wouldn’t be a sub-Britney exercise in bottom-wiggling. Even so, a whole album of Tom Waits covers is pushing the boat out further than anyone could have foreseen.

Johansson’s perceived coolness is built on a mixed bag of performances: beguiling in the Coens' 'The Man Who Wasn't There', loathsome in the overrated ‘Lost In Translation’.

‘Anywhere I Lay My Head’ is a record which, with its My Bloody Valentine-esque multi layered and reverb-heavy production (courtesy of TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, with guitar by Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), could have been released on Creation/4AD in the late 1980s. It’s a pleasure to hear Waits’ songs delivered in a voice other than his own gruff growl.

Johansson is no great singer herself, but her bovine lowing, multitracked and echo-laded in excelsis, is as demure as her screen persona. Being able to rope in none other than David Bowie as a backing vocalist is a perk of Scarlett’s star status.

A collaborative effort and a triumph of the producer’s art it may be, rather than the statement of a sole auteur, but as a pop artefact ‘Anywhere I Lay My Head’ isn’t remotely diminished by that.