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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Timely Experiment : Johansson and her Mirrorball Oddity
Any record released by an 'actress' becomes a 'must-own' for me, because strangely, the 'genre' has given me a lot of good music. I for one, am very thankful that Milla Jovovich released her superb album "The Divine Comedy" in 1994, even though she was ripped to shreds by the press at the time. When the album came out and sounded like "the lovechild between Tori Amos and...
Published on May 29, 2008 by Marc Cabir Davis

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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is rather a David Sitek's album than a Scarlett's...It's worth a listen.
The key with cover versions is to reinvent them and, over the years, Waits's canon has proved remarkably adaptable to a variety of treatments (jazz, country, folk, thrash punk) by everyone from Tim Buckley to The Ramones.
The guiding light behind Johansson's reinventions is her producer David Sitek (guitarist of TV on the Radio and desk-jockey for post-punkers like...
Published on May 20, 2008 by India


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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Timely Experiment : Johansson and her Mirrorball Oddity, May 29, 2008
This review is from: Anywhere I Lay My Head (Audio CD)
Any record released by an 'actress' becomes a 'must-own' for me, because strangely, the 'genre' has given me a lot of good music. I for one, am very thankful that Milla Jovovich released her superb album "The Divine Comedy" in 1994, even though she was ripped to shreds by the press at the time. When the album came out and sounded like "the lovechild between Tori Amos and Kate Bush", critics finally had no option but to join the bandwagon and heave praise upon Milla.

However, for every Milla Jovovich rarity, there are a string of 'actresses' who have turned toward recording music, some with spectacular results : Charlotte Gainsbourg and her amazing "5:55" (2007), Goldie Hawn and her folk-pop album "Goldie" (yes, this actually exists), and Zooey Deschanel's masterpiece "Volume One" with her band She & Him (2008). Of course, there have also been missteps, such as "Babywoman" by Naomi Campbell, "Carmen Electra" (1992) by Carmen Electra (ironically, this is a rap album), and Emanuelle & Ultra Orange (by French Actress Emanuelle Seigner).

So, to which camp does this album belong to? I hesitate to give this a five star rating, because it feels too short and the production does drown Scarlett's voice at places, but it is indeed a solid four star album. Take it from me, I'm a fan of Nine Inch Nails, Fiona Apple, and Luscious Jackson, so if I found something to love here, so can you. The first thing you need to remember though, is that if you come into this experience wanting to negatively criticize the album, of course you will find loads of things to criticize. But taken as a purely auditory adventure, "Anywhere I Lay my Head" is a runaway success.

First of all, I must state that my familiarity with Tom Waits' work is restricted to "Bone Machine" and his epic "Mule Variations". I wouldn't exactly call myself a 'fan' of Tom Waits, but I do enjoy his voice every now and then, and can understand his massive cult following, even though I may not be a part of the tribe. I think this also gave me the opportunity to give this album a fair chance, and here are a couple of my observations. There are numerous reviews here from people who obviously do NOT own the album, but since I actually own it, take it from me:

Scarlett's Voice : If you have at all listened to her debut song "Summertime" (not on this CD), she has a breathy, light voice that is great in the upper register (think of her as a growlier Kirsten Dunst). Whether or not she sings well is a moot point - on some of these songs she nearly walks the line between reciting and whispering, so there are definitely no 'soaring vocals' here. Still, I will give her the fact that she's a decent enough singer, though obviously untrained in any form whatsoever.

Another interesting bit of trivia lies in the liner notes (for those of you who actually plan to buy this on CD) :They say that Scarlett's voice is positioned 'inside the music' rather than on 'top of it'. This lends the music a strange quality, where the singers' vocals are NOT the main focus, rather they serve to compliment the musical arrangements.

The Music Selections : Other than one original, called "Song for Jo", Scarlett pretty much sings well known as well as obscure Tom Waits' songs. "I Don't Wanna Grow Up", is presented here as some sort of heavy 'remix' version, which I did not quite understand (consider it the sonic equivalent of the misplaced "Professional Widow" remix on Tori Amos' Greatest Hits Album). What I especially enjoyed were the songs "Fallin' Down" (which is the semi-hit from this album) as well as "Fannin' Street" - the reason being that both these great songs have backing vocals by David Bowie - and hes actually audible!

One of my musical friends commented that the album sounded like Scarlett wanted to make the perfect Jazz & Blues meets Indie Rock record. While that might be true in parts, this album certainly has its moments of pop sensibility (such as on the amazing "I Wish I was in New Orleans", which sounds like a leftover from the 1990s musical grunge scene. The musical arrangements reminded me a lot of Luscious Jackson, at one point, while Scarlett attempts to also channel a young Janis Joplin, with a rasping growl and inflected tone every so often.

Heres the thing : "Anywhere I Lay My Head" is not a 'light' album. Its also not a serious attempt by Scarlett to be considered as some sort of 'musical genius'. To me, it seemed like a nice musical experiment that has yielded some great results. And believe me, even though many of these songs do not sound great the first time around (man of you might be put away by "Fawn" upon first listen), they all hold up beautifully by the third run of the album.

Also, do yourself a favor and make up your own mind before listening to the many negative reviews here - this is a solid album, its just not meant for everyone.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is rather a David Sitek's album than a Scarlett's...It's worth a listen., May 20, 2008
This review is from: Anywhere I Lay My Head (Audio CD)
The key with cover versions is to reinvent them and, over the years, Waits's canon has proved remarkably adaptable to a variety of treatments (jazz, country, folk, thrash punk) by everyone from Tim Buckley to The Ramones.
The guiding light behind Johansson's reinventions is her producer David Sitek (guitarist of TV on the Radio and desk-jockey for post-punkers like Foals and Liars) and prodigiously talented guitarist Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Sitek's default setting here is to use dreamy, alt.rock soundscapes, equal parts Cocteau Twins, Sonic Youth and Mercury Rev.
The title track, originally a mournful brass band dirge, is pepped up with a Casiotone drum machine; the ragtime guitar accompaniment of "Fannin Street" is transformed into a Mary Chain/Phil Spector stomp (with David Bowie on backing vocals); "Town With No Cheer" sees the bagpipes and synths of the original replaced by swirling organs and gamelan percussion.
If Johansson's aim was to replicate the husky charisma she exudes on screen then she falls flat here; literally, since on many of "Anywhere..."s tracks she chooses to adopt a low, Nico-esque croon that's not entirely within her register. Which might not matter especially if it wasn't far and away her main contribution on an album purporting to reinterpret one of the most charismatic singers and lyricists in recent memory.
The poppiest track is "I Don't Want To Grow Up", where Waits's beery singalong becomes a thumpy electro-pop belter. Best of all is "I Wish I Was In New Orleans" - on Small Change, it sounds like the mournful lament of a hundred-year-old man; here Johansson's guileless, breathy voice and the spooky, plinky-plonky celeste turns it into a demented nursery rhyme.
The only problem is that Johansson, no matter how much double-tracking Sitek uses, can't really sing emotions.
Johansson isn't much of a singer, employing a low, unexpressive register that has hints of Debbie Harry on her electronic-pop version of "I Don't Want to Grow Up", but its lack of flash is well suited to Sitek's dreamlike production job, a woozy sound he describes as "Tinkerbell on cough syrup".
Her voice is not a revelation: sometimes manly, deep and mannered, sometimes a breathy, Monroe-like drawl.
Much of the credit must go to Siteck, who works incredibly hard with his palette of sounds to make the album interesting.
At its best - on "Fannin' Street" and "Song for Jo" - it has the epic, orchestral sweep of an old This Mortal Coil record, sleigh bells and pulsing Kodo drums creating an otherworldly atmosphere.
It may be fine, mood-setting background music, but ultimately it does feel as if there is no real point to this record.
Johansson, as in her acting roles, struggles to connect with a deep enough range of emotions. Waits documents ugly, messy emotions, and this is what makes his songs so moving.
Johansson too often just sounds pleased with herself for being so clever and cool.
Chelsea Girl
The Classic Years
Confusion Is Sex/Kill Yr. Idols
The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities
Rather Ripped
Back to Mine
Essential Mercury Rev: Stillness Breathes 1991-2006
5:55
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad idea but the wrong singer, May 25, 2008
This review is from: Anywhere I Lay My Head (Audio CD)
I like Tom Waits music, but I'm not a big fan of Tom Waits as a singer. So the idea of someone covering Tom Waits appeals to me. The problem is that Scarlett Johansson is just not a singer. Fannin Street, Falling Down and I Don't Want to Grow Up are decent and if you listen to the samples and like them, download them. This CD epitomizes why downloading came into existence. The people who rate this a 1 have not heard enough really bad music. I think the three songs I mentioned are good enough to bring it from a 1 to a 2. I don't know who could give this CD a 4 or 5 star rating but I've met a lot of people in my life who were just tone deaf. So maybe they share a kindred spirit with Scarlett Johansson in this regard.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Her Unique Voice Needs the Right Ears, May 30, 2008
This review is from: Anywhere I Lay My Head (Audio CD)
Scarlett Johansson has always had an odd deeper, but still girly voice. When I heard she was coming out with an album I couldn't wait to hear what it would be like.

Honestly I expected something more normal and poppy.

After a quick listen, normal music was nowhere to be found. She has created a great album with a few great tracks that really stand out to me.

It seems that here on Amazon the majority of the people hate this album. I can see how they would think she cannot sing. I see it as the style of music she is singing. It is a style and I think she pulls it off perfectly with her very unique voice.

Over-all, I do not believe this to be one of those CD's that you pop in and listen all the way through. This is more of a CD that you grab a few good tracks and make a mixed CD with other bands' good songs.

The best tracks in my opinion are #2 (Town with no Cheer) and #3 (Falling Down). The rest of the CD isn't that bad, but none of the other tracks really grabbed me like those two.

These few songs are really worth a listen. Who knows, you may really like it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Johansson's musical birth and delivery room, January 13, 2009
By 
zhabazon (Washington DC area) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Anywhere I Lay My Head (Audio CD)
Tom Waits can write, Tom Waits can sing, Tom Waits can entertain without a seductive look and pouty lips. Scarlett Johansson can act with and without a seductive look and pouty lips. She is an accomplished young actress who certainly will continue to develop and deliver on the screen. In that arena, she excels. Unfortunately, the birth and delivery of her album, "Anywhere I Lay My Head," though not as painful for me as childbirth, was not really enjoyable either. Even if I could afford to cut an album of myself arranging and performing Mr. Waits' music, I'd quell the urge and donate the funds to someone who has a voice worthy of being recorded and promoted. If Johansson has that voice, I can't appreciate it through the synthesis that overwhelms this recording. Incidentally, although Waits produces a memorable recording of, "I Don't Wanna Grow Up," my favorite rendition is still done by The Ramones.
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30 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I kept an open mind..., May 22, 2008
This review is from: Anywhere I Lay My Head (Audio CD)
I'm not usally a fan of mainstream music. Occasionally I'll like the mainstream but more often I'll like stuff that's more off the beaten path. I have nothing against actresses trying their hand at music either: just in the past year Minnie Driver and Emmy Rossum released strong albums that weren't in keeping with the traditional pop music scene. But when I listened to this my opinion of Scarlett Johansson as a singer dropped significantly. I'd heard her rendition of "Summertime" on the "Unexpected Dreams" CD, and though she has a limited range, I thought she might be able to produce something worth listening to on an album. No such luck. I'm not a Tom Waitts fan to begin with, so I won't critique her choice of material. However her voice is raspy, frequently off key, with only a slight awareness of pitch. Her range encompasses is maybe an octave, and she sounds like she's falling asleep as she sings. For me that is the biggest problem. She doesn't seem to care about what she's singing. There's no sense of coloring her voice or phrasing in order to express any kind of feeling (she IS supposed to be an actress, you'd think she would at least um...act?) I'm a big fan of musical theater and I know Scarlett has expressed interest in doing that in the future. Based on this album I have to say I hope that never happens. I don't like writing bad reviews, but this kind of vanity project is what gives actresses who attempt music a bad name and make it harder for those who are actually musical to be taken seriously.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceeded all my expectations, July 27, 2009
By 
This review is from: Anywhere I Lay My Head (Audio CD)
Not being a fan of Scarlett Johansson in movies, I didn't have any interest in listening to a debut that appeared more an ego-trip than anything else. However, knowing that she was covering Tom Waits' songs, curiosity bit me and gave it a go.

Since then, it is a must on my mp3. Probably since Portishead's Dummy, I hadn't enjoyed any album as much as this. Leave your prejudices behind and listen to it. You will enjoy it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The word terrible comes to mind, October 10, 2008
By 
Daniel Murphy (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Anywhere I Lay My Head (Audio CD)
Well, what can be said about this album? Terrible comes to mind. Think a mellow version of Paris Hilton's album. From the outset there was a dubious glance at the album. Granted that she's a stunning lady, a great actress and the new Mrs. Ryan Reynolds but that doesn't mean the woman can sing. The album has met with mixed reviews. One reviewer called it a new standard, another called it sub-standard. Frankly, after taking two painkillers for the headache induced by this piece of career suicide, the latter seems more likely.

Her voice is flat and she can't really carry a tune. The very heavily synthesized music doesn't help her either. She has a deep and monotone voice which doesn't show any great depth of talent. It sounds like another bland album released by some starlet who wants to move from the big screen to the recording studio. That, though, is one thing she has up on Paris Hilton - she succeeded on the big screen.

The album doesn't have any real stand out tracks as they all blend into one. Probably the one track that doesn't have your ears bleeding from the blunt trauma that's been inflicted on them is Falling Down. The first, and hopefully only, single to be released from the album. It's got a very simplistic feel to it that is kind of endearing. Now will someone please hand the album to Kelly Clarkson so she can do something useful with it.

If you're a die hard Scarlett fan, wait until the album hits the bargain bin. The album doesn't really shine in any light except when placed upside down on the coffee table as your newest coaster.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected new favorite (4 1/2 stars), May 22, 2008
This review is from: Anywhere I Lay My Head (Audio CD)
This is the kind of music that I live for, so imagine my surprise when I found this album out of the blue, with no idea what it would sound like or how much I would love it. I stumbled upon it on Amazon, loved the samples, and bought it right then. It's easily one of the best albums I've bought in the past year, so I'm a bit shocked and disappointed by the abundance of negative reviews. For the record, I have no attachment to Scarlett Johansson or to Tom Waits, no reason to "want" to love this album. Frankly, I'm not a big fan of Waits. With the exception of Bone Machine, which I find fairly accessible and mostly enjoyable, his music is usually a bit too rough around the edges for my taste...lacking melody, and vocally a bit hard to swallow except in small doses.

Scarlett's interpretations of his songs, on the other hand, work wonderfully. They're different in style and a bit more accessible than Waits's originals, but I can't help thinking it's an album that he would admire. It's sometimes creepy, sometimes beautiful, sometimes fun, and always strange - in other words, very much in keeping with his own style.

I do think that Scarlett's vocals are a bit over-produced and hidden behind the instrumentation. Is that because her voice isn't good enough to be in the forefront? I don't doubt that one bit. But I happen to enjoy her vocal presence on this album; it lends a hazy, dreamlike quality to the music that I love.

I could be totally wrong, but I have to believe that most of the haters fall into two camps: Waits fans who can't stomach the idea of a cover album by someone lacking "art-rock cred", and fans of the actress who expect mainstream music and a pop-star voice. I'm neither of those things, so maybe that's what sets me apart from the other reviewers. I love music that is strange but at least somewhat accessible, and this definitely qualifies.

Clearly this music isn't for everyone. But I don't think that she deserves to be treated like a starlet who has no business trying to make music. She may not have a traditionally great voice, though I have to respectfully but strongly disagree with those who say she's a terrible singer. I'm reminded of other dark art-rockers like Nick Cave and Marianne Faithfull, who have made wonderful music without wonderful voices. There is an audience for music like this, and I can honestly say it's the sort of album that reminds me why I love music. If you don't like her voice or the electronic instrumentation, that's fine. But I listen to this album and I hear artistry, and I hear admiration for the source material. There may be room for improvement, but to treat it as uninspired rubbish is just music snobbery. If no one had ever heard of Scarlett Johannson or Tom Waits, I think this album would be making waves in indie music circles; instead she's treated with "don't quit your day job" rudeness that's unfair, especially considering the similarly unpolished sound of some artists who are hailed by the same community.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How could this happen?, December 26, 2008
This review is from: Anywhere I Lay My Head (Audio CD)
I am a huge Tom Waits fan, so when I discovered that this album existed, I had to take a listen. Was I ever in for a kick to the earholes...I didn't like one song on this album. The absolute worst has to be 'I Don't Wanna Grow Up' with the pseudo-techno beat and breathy whisper. The arrangements are actually okay sometimes (hence the 2 stars instead of 1), but the mashup here with Johansson's voice to Tom Waits' intellectual property just doesn't do it for me. Tom Waits writes and sings about the rougher side of emotions, down with the dirt and blood and bugs in the parts of town you don't want to go, while Johannson seems to try to turn every insightful nuance into a nightclub cliche. The whole thing just falls flat, but please...preview this album and decide for yourself.
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Anywhere I Lay My Head
Anywhere I Lay My Head by Scarlett Johansson (Audio CD - 2008)
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