Thursday, April 12, 2012

Summertime, and the Living isn't Quite Easy

Many of my longtime readers - long longtime readers - may remember that I used to be one of those awful things known as a "music critic". I wasn't very good, I suppose, but I had my niche and that worked well for me. Of course, I eventually grew to have such almighty disdain for the whole thing and found myself loathing most of the music I had to review. Much like with cinema, however, I routinely found myself in my own little corner defending specific albums that the rest of the "community" had either blindly ignored or were outwardly hostile towards. One such album was Scarlett Johansson's Anywhere I Lay My Head. Released in 2008, it was a peculiar collection of Tom Waits covers that saw Johansson collaborate with TV On the Radio's Dave Sitek. I thought it was beautifully atmospheric, romantically lush, but with sinister undertones and I still listen to it on a regular basis to this very day. Seemingly everybody else hated it, but I always suspected they'd have fallen head over heels with it if it wasn't released by someone as noteworthy as Johansson. But, then again, I suspect that with a lot of stuff. Notoriety brings out pitchforks, doncha know.

Critics were kinder to her Pete Yorn duet album, Break Up, but the lack of any real excitement garnered made the soon-to-be Avenger distance herself from the music side of her career. Why "Relator" wasn't a huge smash hit I honestly have no idea. The music industry is so fickle with stuff like that just used to make me so dispirited. At least with movies you can more or less figure out why one movie is a success or not. "Relator" specifically should have had the folky types with their Deschanel spirit die of giddiness. Alas...

I bring all of this up because Johansson's musical nature is back in a rather unexpected way. The cover of Gershwin's "Summertime" that she recorded back in 2006 for the compilation album Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars has been given the remix treatment by Tim Goldsworthy and Massive Attack's 3D for an upcoming Spanish movie soundtrack. Titled Days of Grace, the soundtrack will also feature music from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Atticus Ross and Shigeru Umebayashi. Hitfix has the entire tracklisting and it's very long (39 tracks in all), but little word about the actual film it's from.

Personally, I love it. Scarlett's vocals so suit this style of deeply atmospheric smoky jazz bar sound and the production here is super top notch. The song is stripped of all its sunniness which has been replaced by a brooding bass line that recalls Human League's "Being Boiled" (aka one of the greatest songs ever recorded, yes) and distorted guitars that echo shoegaze and grunge. It's basically incredible, but what do you think?

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