Owen Pallett
Heartland


3.5
great

Review

by Kiran EMERITUS
January 13th, 2010 | 35 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Owen Pallett drops the Final Fantasy moniker and returns more confident, more ambitious and with his best album yet.

It’s hard not to be impressed by Owen Pallett. After all, we’re talking about a man who has been composing since the age of 13 and has contributed orchestral arrangements to the music of Arcade Fire, Beirut and Grizzly Bear, among others. Besides his work behind the scenes, he’s won the Polaris Music Prize for his solo work, earning it for his second album, He Poos Clouds. However, to those familiar with his critically acclaimed second LP and the work prior to it, beware; Mr. Pallett is a changed man! He’s crumpled up and tossed his Final Fantasy moniker over his shoulder and gone with it are the track listings littered with video game references and the awkwardly personal lyrics. Heartland not only represents his first release under his own name but also his first under Domino Records and Pallett has embraced a fresh start with a decidedly more serious tone. Though these tunes about farmers and deities and imaginary worlds may not seem so far flung from the absurdities and childishness that ran through the spine of He Poos Clouds, Heartland contains a little less quirk and a little more focus and ultimately is Pallett’s best album yet.

Though it starts far too slowly for its own good (not picking up any real force until the wonderful and plucky “Lewis Takes Action” begins) where Heartland shines is when it dares to be brave. With songs like “The Great Elsewhere”, in which ditzy, Nintendo synths are combined with a dramatic string arrangement, to excellent results, it seems like Pallett has really come into his own as a musician, and he sounds more confident than ever as a result. Though orchestral arrangements, at times, can seem slightly too melodramatic and bloated in songs such as “Tryst with Mephistopheles” and “Flare Gun”, there is a fine line that Pallett rides between ambitious and excessive and for the most part, he lands closer towards the good side of that see-saw.

In concept, Heartland is based around a farmer named Lewis, in a world called Spectrum, and his relationship with the deity of the world, Owen. Though the story isn’t easy to follow, due to the often cryptic or ambiguous lyrics, it doesn’t weigh down on the album, as concepts sometimes do. In fact, the emotional climax of “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” is all the more fascinating with the vague shouts of “If what I have is what you need / I’m never gonna give it to you!”. His noticeably improved vocals are a welcome (and in context, necessary) surprise, delivering Lewis’ lines in “Lewis Takes Action” with confidence before adopting a strangely distant quality in the equally cryptic “Oh Heartland, Up Yours!”, using his voice to establish an important sense of tone in the songs and as a result, the story.

However, what really puts Pallett above his peers in the indie climate is how inimitable he is. What he’s done can certainly be done again but the reason it won’t is simple; how many indie musicians you know had composed two operas by the age of 18? His compositions, performed by The Czech Symphony Orchestra, propel the songs to success and it’s immediately obvious that the tracks would be nothing without them. Whereas gratuitous strings often seem like cheap shots at tugging the heart strings of both the listener and the critic, Heartland is made all the more genuine by it. Heartland is based around a story of a mystical world and as such, the stately arrangements create feelings of majesty, drama and tension, like a soundtrack, which is essentially the purpose it’s meant to serve.

Ultimately, Heartland is an album that works to its creators strengths. His love of role playing video games may have spurred him to create a world of his own, his classical background makes the arrangements all the more exciting, and his work behind the scenes with some of indie’s biggest names (and on some of indie’s biggest albums; Funeral, anyone?) meant it was only due time before he stepped out of the slightly restrained persona that released He Poos Clouds and into the more self-assured musician that is Owen Pallett. Whichever way you look at it, Pallett excels in every aspect of this album, most likely because it’s an area he has tremendous experience in and I can give nothing but praise to the man who uses his strengths this potently.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Kiran
Emeritus
January 13th 2010


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

been listening to this quite a bit since the leak but its only really grown on me recently. give this a little time to settle and you will be rewarded!

Digging: D'Angelo - Black Messiah

Mendigo
January 13th 2010


2299 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

excellent review, I really want this now.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
January 13th 2010


3782 Comments


I took a spin through the stream and wasn't that impressed, Ill give it another go tho.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 13th 2010


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'm tempted to lower it to a 3.5 as the 4 may have been overzealous and to be honest i can see why some people might be bored by this but i found it different, in a good way.

HighandDriving
January 13th 2010


3288 Comments


I haven't listened to this yet in a sort of lame protest to him dropping the FF. But you're saying this is better than He Poos Clouds, idk that album is boss.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 13th 2010


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'll put it this way, if you liked He Poos Clouds I can't see you not liking this.

HighandDriving
January 13th 2010


3288 Comments


You sold me you lazy poet.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 13th 2010


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think his hardest job is attracting new fans with this release but old fans should find it easy to swallow!

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
January 13th 2010


7429 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I think his hardest job is attracting new fans


spot on. this was the first album i've heard by him and tbh it didnt appeal to me at all. great review though

AggravatedYeti
January 13th 2010


7685 Comments


I may check this out, never really got into FF, though it sounds pretty much up my alley.

pfillypfeffer
January 13th 2010


48 Comments


Solid review bro....def. thought you were staff at first.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 13th 2010


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

thanks dude

Providence17
January 14th 2010


2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've been a big Owen Pallett fan for a while, and like his previously released works, I find it has to grow on you. Almost moreso than any other artist. My initial rating would have been a 3.0, but I've moved it up to 4.0. "Lewis Takes Action" and "Oh Heartland, Up Yours!" are solid tracks.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 14th 2010


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lewis Takes Action and The Great Elsewhere are probably my favourites at the moment. What would you have rated He Poos Clouds, Providence? Just out of curiosity.

Providence17
January 14th 2010


2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I gave He Poos Clouds a 3.5. Most of that rating comes from the pure musicianship, as well as originality. My only issue with He Poos Clouds was that, as the album moved into its second half, much like Has A Good Home, it started to bore me. Heartland is his first release where the album really flows in my opinion, and that's why I gave it a higher rating than his previous two albums.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 15th 2010


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I agree, this is definitely his most cohesive album.

jeremologyy
January 16th 2010


275 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

well written but i disagree with one thing: i think the album starts off perfectly. "midnight directives" has a fantastic melody, and "mount alpentine" is brief but immense and powerful. the album is great all the way around.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
January 16th 2010


4927 Comments


I'll be excited to see how this matured from He Poos Clouds

Kiran
Emeritus
January 17th 2010


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

jeremologyy, I don't really dislike the first two songs, I just thought for how consistent the rest of the album is, it could've started on a stronger note.

thebhoy
Emeritus
January 18th 2010


4461 Comments


I should check this out. He's always felt like a lesser Andrew Bird to me, but he's still definitely talented.



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