Sound Bites

Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2008

SCARLETT JOHANSSON "Anywhere I Lay My Head" ★★

The idea of Scarlett Johansson making a reputable album of Tom Waits covers isn't as farfetched as it might seem. Before making dubious acting career moves such as "The Island," ScarJo had hipster movie roles in "Ghost World" and "Lost In Translation," and woke Woody Allen up creatively with "Match Point."

So with "Anywhere I Lay My Head," Ryan Reynolds' intended aims to re-establish her artsy bona fides. She digs into the oeuvre of guttural-voiced bohemian street poet Waits, and hooks up with Dave Sitek of art-rockers TV on the Radio, who produces, and brings in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner, plus some guy named David Bowie.

Sitek surrounds Johansson with fuzzy layers of sounds, in a production style he's described as "Tinker Bell on cough syrup." The result is an intriguing vanity production with a hollow echo at the core. The problem is that is that Johansson's impersonal voice never sounds the slightest bit relaxed, and is often unsteady. She has great difficulty carrying lugubriously paced tunes - like "Fannin' Street" and "Fallin' Down." As musical debuts from crush-worthy actresses go, this will inevitably be unfavorably compared to Zooey Deschanel's charming collaboration with M. Ward as She & Him, and that's more than fair.

NORTEC COLLECTIVE PRESENTS: BOSTICH+FUSSIBLE "Tijuana Sound Machine" ★★★ ½

By 2000, it was a great idea made reality: a gang of Tijuana sound artists, already veteran club DJs and erstwhile techno-popsters steeped in electro-rock savvy from Kraftwerk on, began creating experimental dance tracks spiced up with their native border region's norteno and brass-driven banda music.

This muy intoxicante third release for the Nortec Collective showcases founding members Bostich (Ramon Amezcua) and Fussible (Pepe Mogt), who, as many had hoped, deliver more "Nor" and less "tec" this time, with pumping bajo sexto low-end and shimmering processed accordion riffs driving tracks like "AKAI 47" (the title itself a playful merge of the Japanese electronics firm moniker and the weapon of choice for Mexican narcotraficantes).



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