Make us your home page
Instagram

Review: Petra Haden recreates movie scores with only her voice

Petra Haden's new album is one heck of a parlor trick. Using just her voice — words and bah-rumps and whatever weirdness passes through her lips — she re-creates famous movie scores: Rebel Without a Cause, A Fistful of Dollars, Goldfinger. For Psycho, she just about passes out mimicking those persistent dagger strings.

I should say up front that a little of Petra Goes to the Movies goes a looong way. Although this is a cappella singing in its most adventurous form, let's just say if this were spinning at a party, I'd give it about 20 minutes before I found another party. In 2005, she released Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out, in which Pete, Roger & Co. all resided in her tricks-aplenty larynx. That record was more of a crowd-pleaser; it also rocked hard.

Nevertheless, Haden, a 41-year-old indie darling who's worked with everyone from the Decemberists to Beck to the Foo Fighters, is a movie junkie. And that pure cinematic joy is evident throughout this meticulously crafted effort, especially on such grandiose works as John Williams' Superman Theme, which takes the robust art of humming in the shower to new shampoo-flinging levels. It's pretty darn adorable. Just try to keep up.

Not all of the singer's choices are well-known: One of the sweetest picks, and performances, is My Bodyguard, Dave Grusin's composition from the 1980 teen flick starring Chris Makepeace and Matt Dillon. That one takes me back, the music's puckish autumnal melody as comforting as falling leaves and school-bus mornings. A hipper, more modern selection is Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' Hand Covers Bruise, from The Social Network, a buzzing, contemplative work with an unsettling drone underneath a casual six-note refrain. Both of those tracks are reminiscent of '60s cocktail jazz, accompaniment perhaps for Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass.

Haden mixes up the "instrumentals" (for lack of a better word) with a few lyrical flourishes. Her father, legendary bassist Charlie Haden, and guitarist Bill Frisell lay the groundwork for the haunting This Is Not America, from The Falcon and the Snowman, a song written by David Bowie, Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. Frisell also plays on It Might Be You, the satisfyingly saccharine ballad from Dustin Hoffman comedy Tootsie; Haden's "natural" voice, it turns out, is a tender coo.

The oft-covered Calling You, from Baghdad Cafe, is a straight ready-for-radio weeper, complete with Haden's torchy reading and a chilly piano line from jazz notable Brad Mehldau. All of these cuts are relatively traditional, and much more amenable to repeat listens.

I've seen enough episodes of Glee to know that the Dalton Academy Warblers are hunky practitioners of vocal gymnastics; thus if you're a fan of the TV show, you might very well dig this, too. But Haden longs to challenge, both herself and the listener. So let it be known that Katy Perry's Teenage Dream is one thing; the blaring, unsettling cacophony of God's Lonely Man from Martin Scorsese's blood-soaked Taxi Driver is another.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@tampabay.com.

.review

Petra Haden, Petra Goes to the Movies (Anti-)

GRADE: B+

Review: Petra Haden recreates movie scores with only her voice 02/01/13 [Last modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 5:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  2. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  3. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  4. ‘80s acts dominate lineup of 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

    Blogs

    Oh, yes. Christmas is coming early this year to ‘80s fans in Florida. Disney’s Epcot Center has announced the lineup to its “Eat to the Beat” concert series that coincides with their annual International Food & Wine Festival.

  5. Equality Florida leader honored at Tampa U2 concert

    Briefs

    TAMPA — Equality Florida director Nadine Smith couldn't attend last week's U2 concert in Tampa, but she can tell you which of her friends had great seats for the June 14 show at Raymond James Stadium.

    Nadine Smith, Equality Florida founder and CEO, received a unique distinction last week when U2 included her in a montage of photos saluting activism and women leaders.