Carla Patullo’s collection So She Howls offers irrefutable evidence of her artistry. It is a life-affirming release, without question, but it isn’t especially light-hearted fare. The album’s nine tracks constitute a song cycle revolving around themes of grief and healing and inspired by Patullo’s near-death experience. It’s a bold and obviously deeply personal step for a songwriter who has built the bulk of her artistic reputation by scoring over thirty films. Her recent credits include Everybody Dies… Sometimes, a recent premier at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival, HBO Max’s My Name is Maria De Jesus, and Disney+’s upcoming film Maxine starring Margaret Cho, among many others.  


The four-time Hollywood Music in Media Award nominee’s latest release traffics equally in substance and atmospherics. Patullo drafted a wide range of collaborators to enhance the songs and viola virtuoso Martha Mooke alongside vocal ensemble Tonality offer much to the opener. “If You Listen” is a lush instrumental that sets an early tone with Mooke’s spellbinding playing and wordless ethereal vocals from Tonality. The title song is mainly instrumental as well. Tonality, however, continues to provide invaluable contributions with a vocal of the spheres touch that exerts a strong cathartic effect on the song. It’s a turbulent instrumental piece, however, that suggests a torturous, yet ultimately triumphant, personal journey.  

Many of the album’s musical pieces seemingly emerge from nothingness. They have the effect of a dream becoming a quantifiable sonic reality. “Calling You” and the implied yearning of its title swell out of the speakers and scales exhilarating heights. Patullo’s vocal accompaniment for the song is wordless once again, but it nevertheless bursts from her as a cri de coeur and that heartfelt outcry will move all but the hardest of hearts. There’s an undercurrent of subtlety coloring “To Forest Stories” that guest musician Lorenza Ponce fleshes out for listeners. This is a layered instrumental and represents one of the album’s genuine turning points as they step away from the template set down with the album’s first three numbers.

“Without Noise” features lyrical content and a haunted Patullo vocal. The melody lines running throughout the song shift and transform as it progresses and the composition’s performance generates an unusual, yet impressive, energy, particularly after its midway point. Patullo places piano and synths at the forefront of “We Remember” without competing with Patullo’s voice for attention. Every element works together to form a greater coherent whole. Patullo applies post-production echo to her voice, but some may hear it as extraneous atmospherics as the power of her voice is more than enough to sustain the track’s desired mood.

“And Love” concludes the release with its shining moment of redemption. Its accompanying video is a fine artistic achievement as well that underlines the personal stakes driving Patullo during the writing and recording of this work. The song is the supreme achievement, however, as it reaches deeper and more boldly into her heart and embraces life despite whatever travails have beset her before. So She Howls is a thoroughly satisfying release that challenges and consoles listeners. 

Garth Thomas