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Album Review

by Owen Pallett


Review Date
8th February 2010
Reviewed by
Brannavan Gnanalingam

Owen Pallett, who before this album released music through the name Final Fantasy, and did the arrangements for such luminaries as Arcade Fire and Beirut, still hasn’t lost his bizarre touch, despite the name change. His lyrics are as literate and dense as ever (and it has to be said, jarring in their occasional awkwardness), and his album’s concept (it’s a science fiction record about the nature of artistic creation) are as idiosyncratic as some of his previous work. Heartland however contains some of Pallett’s best music, a chamber-pop extravaganza which ought to collapse underneath its own earnestness, but contains plenty of excitement in Pallett’s off-the-wall arrangements and pop sensibilities. By freeing himself from the baggage of being known for his arrangements for famous bands and his computer game name, Pallet has made the most expansive and thrilling album of his career, and the album is an early highlight of 2010.

Pallett is a classically trained violinist (and still is commissioned to write classical music) and this background means the orchestral instruments are the driving force of the album. Pallett brings along the Czech Philharmonic and the St. Kitts’ Winds to add the orchestral touches, and the sound is much richer than the severe austerity of his previous terribly titled album He Poos Clouds. The album’s narrative is self-reflexive, and features a science-fiction farmer called Lewis who is struggling against his creator, one Owen Pallett. Pallett uses his character to simultaneously critique and laud the artistic process.

The dense sound is immediately evident in the pizzicato strings and sinister crescendo of ‘Keep the Dog Quiet’. The album is full of many highlights where the lyrics and the music work in tandem or in opposition: the heroism of the lyrics in ‘Lewis Takes Action’ is matched by a mock heroic score, the epic ‘The Great Elsewhere’ is matched in tone by its gorgeous piano and strings swirl, and the joyous ‘Tryst With Mephistopheles’ belies the lyrics in which Lewis makes a pact with the Devil to kill Owen Pallett for his patronising construct of Lewis. If this all sounds too serious for its own good, you’d be half-right. Luckily the music is too good for it not to be taken seriously, and Pallett’s thrilling and unpredictable music more than exceeds the ambition of his thematic constructs.

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