Here's what's been on my headphones this past week:
Scarlett Johansson's debut album, "Anywhere I Lay My Head," which consists of Tom Waits covers (and one original song), is a vanity project. Turns out the actress doesn't have much to be vain about when it comes to singing. Waits may have the voice of a mud-encrusted catfish, but his vocal delivery is very expressive. By contrast, Scarlett is curiously emotionless. I was rooting for this album to be great but, in the end, it's only a triumph for producer David Sitek. Full review, here.
I'm pleasantly surprised by a new release by Curt Smith, one half of Tears for Fears. Roland Orzabal has always been the more high profile of the duo and so I imagined Smith was the Andrew Ridgley to Orzabal's George Michael. But Smith's gift for melody, not to mention a great voice, has quickly put that notion to rest. Full review, here.
Sonny Landreth's slide guitar is so good he probably makes even Derek Trucks sweat. Landreth (r.) has a new album, "For the Reach," that features guest stars such as Eric Clapton, Robben Ford, Mark Knopfler, Eric Johnson, and Dr. John. Full review, here.
I'm also knocked out by "Soul Science," the new album by Justin Adams (guitarist in Robert Plant's band, Strange Sensation) and Juldeh Camara, a Griot player from Gambia. Adams is British, but his guitar work is influenced by the sounds of West Africa. Adams and his collaborator have a natural chemistry that bubbles to a boil on cuts such as "Nayo" and "Naafigi." The second track, "Ya Ta Kayaa," sounds like Bo Diddley playing with Tinariwen. As crosscultural collaborations go, "Soul Science" rivals Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Toure's "Talking Timbuktu."
My favorite albums of 2008 so far: Goldfrapp -- "Seventh Tree"
Drive By Truckers - "Brighter Than Creations Dark"
Elbow -- "The Seldom Seen Kid" (l.)
No-Man -- "Schoolyard Ghosts"
R.E.M. -- "Accelerate"
Santogold -- "Santogold"
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -- "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!"