Release Date: Sep 15, 2009
Record label: Rhino
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative, Singer-Songwriter
I hated Scarlett Johansson’s Dave Sitek-produced Tom Waits covers album, Anywhere I Lay My Head. I just didn’t understand what she brought to the project—she wasn’t writing the songs, she wasn’t playing the music, and her dispassionate vocals were so buried under a thick haze of sound effects that they added virtually nothing to the nothing she’d already contributed. environs of this new Pete Yorn collaboration.
Winsome actress plus reflective male singer-songwriter in mildly rocking duet partnership? We’ve seen it ? before, of course, with She & Him, a.k.a. Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. That duo had its fizzy retro charms; the most ? entertaining thing about this collaboration is conjuring obnoxious nickname combos: Scar-Yo! Jo-Yorn-sson! Pe-lett! Johansson’s throaty vocals fit Break Up‘s intimate vibe better than they did on her overly ambitious Tom Waits-covers album.
Pete Yorn recorded Break Up in 2006 on the heels of one, but it sat on the shelf until 2009, appearing just a matter of months after Back & Fourth, and a year after his duet partner, Scarlett Johannson, cast as Brigitte Bardot to Yorn's Serge Gainsbourg, made an awkwardly arty splash with a Tom Waits' cover album, but the album that really casts a shadow over this is Vol. 1, the 2008 record by She & Him, the teaming of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel.
Given Scarlett Johansson's critically panned album of Tom Waits covers released last year, it's hard not to feel trepidation about this Pete Yorn/Johansson collaboration. But on this nine-song album inspired by Serge Gainsbourg's late 60s collab with lover/muse Brigitte Bardot, the bombshell actor more than holds her own against earnest singer/songwriter Yorn. [rssbreak] It gets off to a great start with Relator, which bounces a catchy looping guitar part between Johansson's smoky alto and Yorn's plaintive (and plainish) one.
Scarlett Johansson frequents the movie screen as a leading lady against strong male actors, so it seems natural that she would appear on an duet album called Break Up playing against Pete Yorn. Yorn is no stranger to sharing the stage, either; he has collaborated with musical bigwigs such as Dave Grohl and the Dixie Chicks. On the album, Yorn's second release this year, a breakup between the two is the theme of the lyrics, and the music ranges from giddy to contemplative to morose, each song capturing a different general mood.
It might be easy to draw comparisons between Break Up, the new album from partners in crime Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson, and last year’s She & Him project from like-minded duo M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel: indie-centric folky troubadour seeks out similarly indie-centric silver screen starlet to collaborate on a winsome, breezy pop record. A little too easy, maybe, and on the surface somewhat superficial, but an apt and useful reference point in illustrating the highs and lows in the execution here.
Scarlett Johansson, the musician, has a way of getting herself into impossible situations. Like, I dunno, making her official recording debut with a version of jazz standard "Summertime". Joining a reunited Jesus and Mary Chain onstage at Coachella. Taking on the Tom Waits songbook. Covering Jeff ….