Pete Yorn / Scarlett Johansson

Break Up

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Pete Yorn recorded Break Up in 2006 on the heels of one, but it sat on the shelf until 2009, appearing just a matter of months after Back & Fourth, and a year after his duet partner, Scarlett Johannson, cast as Brigitte Bardot to Yorn's Serge Gainsbourg, made an awkwardly arty splash with a Tom Waits' cover album, but the album that really casts a shadow over this is Vol. 1, the 2008 record by She & Him, the teaming of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel. Yorn and Johannson cut their album long before She & Him, but surfacing in its wake, they can't help but seem a bit like the polished, polite answer to the twee, precious charms of Zooey & M. Ward. Break Up does trump Vol. 1 conceptually, chronicling the dissolution of a romance as a series of duets, and Scarlett is a more-than-worthy foil to Yorn. If anything, her hushed, husky voice -- showcased better here than on her own debut -- is a greater presence than his self-pity. In this tasteful context, it's easy to hear why he pines after her but not so clear what she ever saw in him in the first place.

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