owen pallett heartland
  • WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2010

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Owen Pallett decided to name his band Final Fantasy, even though it began as a solo project. "The experienceand the tone of the materialwas reminiscent of the hours and hours I had spent as an adolescent playing those epic JRPGs," he recently explained in a message on Domino Records' website.

Surprisingly, for the past half-decade, he managed to get away with appropriating the name of the popular Square/Enix game with no consequences. Nevertheless, he voluntarily retired the moniker just before his new album, Heartland, came out. It will be his first album to be released in many places abroad, including Japan, which is why, he said, "it is in my own best interests to definitively distinguish my music from Square/Enix's games." Eventually, his entire oeuvre will be re-issued under his full name. While Pallett's compositions and vocal talents only continue to improve, the name change is not an indication of a completely new sound or band.

However, there have been significant developments in Pallett's unique arrangements of half electronic, half orchestral sounds. His early minimalism, featured on Has a Good Home (2005), is gone. "I kept an image in my head of putting so many notes on the page that the paper turned black," Pallett said, of writing Heartland. He did not stick to his usual combination of his choirboy-like voice, violin, and a bevy of looping pedals, but instead recorded this album with the addition of a full orchestra in Prague and the percussionist Thomas Gill, who will also accompany him on live shows.

Most of the album finds him playing his trademark violin, yet "E is for Estranged" reminds listeners that Pallett is equally talented on the piano. Pallett claims '70s synth-pop to be one of his many inspirations. This is only very noticeable at the denouement of the otherwise militaristic march of "Oh Heartland, Up Yours!"

Heartland does not follow a Dungeons and Dragons-themed storyline, as did his last full-length He Poos Clouds (2006). However, it does involve another whimsical narrative. Here the protagonist is the young farmer Lewis, who travels throughout the land of Spectrum to defeat the deity Owen, properly named after the music's creator. While the storyline is definitely there, it takes several listens through the album to fully grasp what is happening. The plot is not an overbearing presence, but because Pallett's music is so intricate and pleads for multiple listens, the tale eventually seeps through, adding another dimension to this ambitious work.Lyndsey Matthews

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MP3: Owen Pallet - "Lewis Takes Action" (Heartland)
Owen Pallet on Myspace

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