Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ARTIST: Owen Pallett
ALBUM: "Heartland"
Published on weru.org

On first listen, "Heartland," the new album from Owen Pallett (formerly known as Final Fantasy), is like some sort of strange movie soundtrack. This is his third studio album, the first released under his given name. Pallett’s voice is beautiful as it grows weak and strained with higher notes, reaching through the more upfront music. It is truly exciting, intellectual music that accomplishes the delicate balance of profound classical music and enjoyable alternative rock music.

Right near the beginning, the listener begins to fall. The 50-second “Mount Alpetine” interlude is falling off a mountain. The fierce strings of the song, evoke physical tension and sound as if Pallett is far away on that cold mountain. His big, breathy vocals sound like he's falling, taking in gulps of air and hollering out.

The music, however, is the focal point of the album. It dominates the voice, which is often quiet and detached. As in acting, however, sometimes it is most compelling to speak or sing quietly, when everything else around is so exciting and brash; the listeners are forced to sit on their haunches and try to listen over the noise. It is incredibly different to listen to "Heartland" on speakers than to listen to a more intimate "Heartland" in headphones or with your head leaned up close to the soft fabric of the speakers.

Horns, winds, and strings (the instrument that you tend to see with Pallett, who is a classically trained violinist) are present and active throughout this orchestral whirlwind. Though in the ears of some, orchestral pieces can be drab, "Heartland" is fun. There are cartoony sounds and influence from world music, as in “Flare Gun.” Pallett then takes those classical instruments and changes their usual style in the bass work on “Keep the Dog Quiet,” a song that makes you feel as if you are stalking about the library in the Clue board game, desperately trying to learn who killed Mr. Boddy.

By the midpoint of the album, “The Great Elsewhere” explodes. That is where my emotional connection to the album was completely secured. One may feel like she is watching a movie very closely, crying or wanting to cry, during a montage of someone running. Perhaps Pallett channeled the world’s emotional connection to Forrest Gump.

Though there are weird sounds coming out of the musical space, most likely manipulation of some sort of digital machine, Pallett's sometimes danceable tracks retain a classical, sophisticated style, while still fitting comfortably in the alternative rock genre. The music is pure excitement that knows how to settle itself, and you'll grow fonder with every listen. It is wonderfully content, as stated in “Oh Heartland, Up Yours!”: “If I only had a rowboat, I would row it up to heaven. And if heaven will not have me, I will take the other option. I will seek out my own satisfaction.”

Suggested tracks: "The Great Elsewhere," "Flare Gun," "Oh Heartland, Up Yours!"

See also: Beirut, Patrick Wolf, St. Vincent.

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