ScarJo’s Tribute To Tom Waits Is Actually Dave Sitek’s Tribute To Ivo Watts-Russell

ARTIST: Scarlett JohanssonALBUM: Anywhere I Lay My HeadRELEASE DATE: May 20, 2008WEB DEBUT: April 30, 2008

ONE-LISTEN VERDICT: As an album of Tom Waits interpretations, this is really weak–Johansson’s flat, vacant voice is so buried in the mix and covered in echo that often you can’t even make out the lyrics. Had it not been sold as such, I’d never guess that this was a Waits tribute album, and the original “Song For Jo” is hardly discernable in the dreamy stream of it all. As a TV On The Radio spin-off, however, Head is pretty enjoyable, full of grand backdrops guaranteed to make a 4AD devotee’s day. While the album’s male background vocalists sound awfully familiar, only on the closing “Who Are You?” does the music achieve TVOTR’s usual turgidity.

Most of the tracks slowly swoon, with ScarJo happy to ape Hope Sandoval and other sleepy-effect pedal sirens, though the uptempo drum machine track on “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” makes it sound as dated as a Four-Calendar Cafe outtake. Proof of the singer’s secondary status is offered by an organ-led instrumental of “Fawn” that builds to a ridiculous saxophone solo worthy of Curtis Stigers. (Then again, maybe ScarJo was playing the sax.) Dave Sitek’s arrangements may not do justice to Waits’ songwriting, but they make the album frequently gorgeous, if unaffecting.