album review: “break up”- scarlett johansson & pete yorn

break up- scarlett johansson & pete yorn : B+

okay, this review may be a little premature considering the fact that ive only owned this cd for less than 48 hours. still, i have listened to it at least 12 times since tuesday morning, so i feel that i have earned the right to review it.

i was really skeptical about this album because scarlett johansson’s tom waits cover cd completely bombed. i figured she was one of those actresses with a decent but overhyped voice, and the idea of her tainting pete yorn’s music kind of disgusted me, to be honest.

that being said, this album freaking rocks. (except for the 3rd song. scarlett’s voice is so nasally it’s unbearable. but only in this song.) i think people will love or hate this album. it has a very distinct and unique sound. kinda like that she & him album. i’ll be the first to say that m.ward and zooey deschanel are extremely talented, and i respect the project tremendously. in fact, i loved everything about that album except for the way it sounded. i think the same could be said for break up.

the first track, “relator” is the perfect way to start off the album. it’s infectious and poppy. it’s also got this vinyl sound, which can also be said about the album as a whole. it sounds a little scratchy, but it definitely adds to the feel. not quite as obvious as bon iver’s for emma long ago, though, so it’s not distracting. “search your heart” is quickly becoming my favorite; i think it’s the most complete duet on the cd, not to take anything away from the other tracks. “blackie’s dead” stands out as the most pete yorn-esque of the bunch (in a very, very good way); it’s a perfect showcase of his abilities. “clean” is absolutely beautiful; it’s subtle yet sentimental and captures the essence of a break up to an incredible exactness. i guarantee this song will be used in a movie very soon.

break up is very obviously a throwback to a different era. it was said to be inspired by serge gainsbourg and brigitte bardot’s duet albums from the late 60’s. at the same time, though, it still contains the electronic elements that are popular today. i think that’s why i like it more than she & him’s volume one because i felt like that album was stuck in the past. it was slightly lawrence welk for me. (no one kill me, please.)

i can’t emphasize how simple and effortless this album sounds. it literally feels like a couple sat down in their living room and broke up, and we’re listening to it all. but of course, instead of talking, they’re singing. im surprised at how much chemistry pete and scarlett have and how well it’s conveyed even though i can’t even see their interactions.

one of the few complaints i have is that it really slows down at the end. it’s not that the songs are weaker. actually, i don’t know what it is. it just doesn’t stand out as much as the first half. also, the whole album is under 30 minutes long.

i’m giving this one a B+ because i think my excitement for it will wear off with time. and pitchfork gave it a scathing 4.7 out of 10. they said that “there’s little about this duo’s chemistry that lives up to Matt and Kim” and “it rarely has the tunes or emotional impact to make it one of those rare impossible situations you’ll actually want to remember.” calm down, snobs. why are you even comparing this to a matt and kim album? as far as i know, this was just a little side project; i don’t think either of them are relying on this to jump start a new career. (i hope not, anyway.) you just have to embrace break up for what it is. a little fun thing that released some creative juices. it wasn’t meant to move any musical mountains or anything like that. i swear, pitchfork sucks the joy out of everything.


~ by CJL on September 16, 2009.

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