Can Scarlett Johansson Sing? Who Cares?
Esquire music critic Andy Langer previews this week's new album releases, featuring music from actress-turned-singer Scarlett Johansson, Green Day side project Foxboro Hot Tubs, Abigail Washburn, and the Flobots.
Last winter, when Foxboro Hot Tubs first put up six songs for free on its Web site, many fans began to hear similarities with another familiar band: Green Day. Turns out, it actually was Green Day, recording under a different name. Now available on the full-length album Stop Drop Roll, the band's retro British Invasion garage-rock sounds reminiscent of The Who and The Yardbirds.
"The whole name-change thing is a mystery to me," Langer says. "Here's a band that had to decide what to do after American Idiot, after a real mainstream, Grammy-winning success. If this is a stopgap, I guess it works, but I don't know why they didn't just put this out as a Green Day record."
Actress Scarlett Johansson's debut CD, Anywhere I Lay My Head, covers and reinterprets the works of Tom Waits. The album, which also features features Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner and even David Bowie on two songs, has incredibly lush and layered production by TV on the Radio's David Sitek. Langer says that this helps to disguise Johansson's breathy yet often lackluster vocals.
"The whole premise is tricky," Langer says, "because Tom Waits songs are tricky to begin with. This thing, like it started off, is a curiosity, and it's not that much more than that."
Banjo player Abigail Washburn utilizes her knowledge of and fluency in the Mandarin language to create a worldly hybrid bluegrass sound. Now teaming up with banjo icon Bela Fleck and Ben Sollee on The Sparrow Quartet, Washburn and company have created an album that Langer describes as "virtuosic and ambitious without sounding virtuosic and ambitious."
Langer also addressed the Flobots' summer radio hit "Handlebars," from its album Fight With Tools, which fuses classical and hip-hop.
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