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Jon Brion - "I Heart Huckabees" Score Print E-mail
Tuesday, 12 October 2004

Jon Brion

I Heart Huckabees Score
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Milan Records
release year: 2004
performance: 9
sound 8
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Image Power pop aficionados may recognize Jon Brion’s name for his work along with Jellyfish guitarist Jason Falkner in a disbanded group called The Grays. Others may have noticed him listed in the production credits of projects by Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright, David Byrne or The Eels. If none of these examples ring any bells, his previous soundtrack assignment for “Magnolia” might trigger a fond association. But what ultimately makes Brion excel with movie soundtracks, in particular, is how he can write both straight pop songs and create appropriate movie mood music. His generally bright aural demeanor makes him come off like a happier-sounding Randy Newman (another notable soundtrack creator) in many places on the “I Heart Huckabees” soundtrack, and should earn him more work in Tinseltown.
The songs here also include his vocals, taking on many varying forms throughout this release. For example, “Knock Yourself Out” is acoustic guitar and harmonica folk, which sounds a little like “Mrs. Robinson”-era Simon & Garfunkel. On the other hand, “Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad” is more rock-oriented, especially due to its electric guitar. In fact, the song is even sort of Tom Petty-ish during its chorus. On the quieter side, “Get What It’s About” is a bit of a piano bar ballad, which also features multi-tracked backing vocals and subtle horns. Similarly, “Over Our Heads” is another such keyboard ballad.

This album’s batch of instrumentals is equally wide-ranging. The misleadingly titled “Ska,” which isn’t ska at all, is a fluty, “Pink Panther”-like instrumental. It has a swinging quality to it, much like a lot of Henry Mancini’s ‘60s soundtrack work. It features a jazzy drumbeat and intermittent snare rolls. Other standouts include “True to Yourself,” because of its vibes and clunky percussion. You might even say this one has a space-age bachelor pad music quality to it. “Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad” is performed in various configurations on this collection, including a couple of minutes in a string quartet version. “Strangest Times” sports Latin guitar and rhythmic piano, with a kind of an underlying samba feel. Brion sure likes to use a lot of chimes, or at least chiming sounds, which he employees on both “You Learn” and “Monday.”

The “I Heart Huckabees” soundtrack is an album that stands on its own as a melodic pop/rock offering, so even if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s still an enjoyable listening experience. Besides, these songs don’t really tell you much about the movie anyhow, since there are no character names mentioned in its lyrics, nor are there film locales described. What you do learn, at least, is that this is a character-driven film, since all of these songs delve gingerly into matters of the heart and mind.

Although there’s no guarantee that you’ll “heart” the “Huckabees” movie, you’ll likely fall immediately in love with Jon Brion after listening to this disc.

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