"Break-Up" is an album it's tempting to make excuses for in advance. Recorded over three days ("casual") back in 2006 ("not rushed to market") and now appearing in the shadow of Zooey Deschanel's and M. Ward's She & Him: Volume One ("not as good as...").
Plus, it's a "concept album." Another danger sign.
Still, I took the plunge. This album is my first investment in the music of Pete Yorn, but my second in Scarlett Johansson's musical career. Her 2008 release of Tom Waits covers "Anywhere I Lay My Head" didn't rack up a whole lot of plays on my iPod. But the song "Falling Down" is definitely worth a download (at the very least, check out the video with its Salman Rushdie cameo). Johansson's vocals got mostly lost in her Dave Sitek-produced debut. Here, they more than hold their own, with a bluesy delivery that works well against Yorn's laid-back vocals.
Yorn is said to have been inspired by the Serge Gainsbourg-Brigitte Bardot "Bonnie & Clyde" collaboration of the 1960s. And he seems to have found lyrical inspiration in the songs of the past, too, with many of the lyrics seemingly plucked from a familiar pop-heartbreak grab-bag.
If nothing else, perhaps Scarlett Johansson will do for Pete Yorn musically what she did for Woody Allen at the movies - attract some broader interest to help perk up his career. Which is maybe why the album is being taken off the shelf right now. Ultimately, as it tracks the course of a relationship, the album doesn't quite live up to its early, enthusiastic excitement ("Relator"). But no excuses are necessary: "Break Up" is an album of considerable charms.