Review Summary: A Swedish Love Story is a solid EP, but lacks the narrative drive of it's LP predecessors.
A fellow writer once mentioned to me that he’d read a record review so resolute, so passionate, but so helplessy convoluted that it somehow managed to include a reference to Sephiroth, the dark villain from Final Fantasy VII, into one of its many twisted metaphors. Impressed, I swore to him that one day I would do the same but, despite Owen Pallett being the artist formerly known as Final Fantasy, today is not that day. I’m afraid it would just be all too easy. The sense of accomplishment that accompanies such a feat tends to arise only when it’s as irrelevant to the subject matter as possible. Besides, there’s plenty to say about Pallett’s new EP A Swedish Love Story
without needing to plumb the depths of the tenuous metaphor. Well, I’ll do my best anyway.
Since dropping the aforementioned moniker, Pallett’s career has taken a turn for the better; he’s been receiving the recognition he deserves for the magnificent arrangements of Arcade Fire’s string section and his solo LP from earlier this year, Heartland
, was justifiably met with all-round acclaim. Within, Pallett weaved the tale of Lewis, just your average “young, ultra-violent farmer” (we all know one), into a rich tapestry woven with both orchestral and synthetic thread.
The title of his new EP, A Swedish Love Story
, implies a similarly grand narrative arc, but in reality, it has none of the thematic drive of Heartland
. What it does have however are several pleasant songs that can be enjoyed perfectly well on their own. ‘A Man With No Ankles’ is a promising fusion of natural string tones and electronic drums that creates a comfortably metronomic jaunt. It’s disco-strings, but it ain’t no Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band; Pallett pulls the whole thing off with a delicate panache. ‘Scandal At the Parkade’ follows and is a frantic frolic with unresolved melodies backed by urgent strings.
There’s just one inescapable flaw: the sound is thin, thinner than it should be. On paper, for all of Pallett’s orchestral command, this album should sound like it gorges on Sam’s Chicken with a McFlurry or two for dessert. Instead, Pallett keeps this EP fed on a diet of Slimfast, meaning it’s fit, lean and attractive but lacking fertile, child-bearing curves. Tsk… and I was doing so well.
Despite lapsing on the metaphor front, the criticism holds true. Perhaps though, my expectations have been unfairly shifted. Maybe the kind of nourishing experience I expect from a chamber-pop record is best served by Pallett’s work with Arcade Fire, although it’s advisable for Pallett to avoid this approach. His voice, as engaging as it is, would struggle to fill out such a sound and Pallett’s most endearing qualities would never be a comfortable fit with this aesthetic - so on A Swedish Love Story
he makes sure to inject his shy, awkward but sweet nature into all of its four songs. It’s therefore a pleasant listen but ultimately a transient and forgettable experience.
Written for www.nightbus.tumblr.com