Owen Pallett – Heartland

Owen Pallett, the Canadian composer, multi-instrumentalist and all round clever so-and-so, may just have produced one of the best albums of 2010.

Ok, so we are only a few days into the new year and so far there is not much competition, but Pallett’s third album Heartland is so breathtaking in its ambition, so clever in its arrangements and so bold in the way it hops across genres that it should not be a surprise to see it adorn end of year lists come December.

With the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara involved, the album is at times pure Brian Wilson and at others like Animal Collective as it effortlessly takes in aspects of classical music, electronica, pop and indie-cool.

For those unfamiliar with his work Pallett has been lurking in the shadows of indie alternative rock-istocracy and mainstream pop for a number of years.

Among those he’s worked with  and arranged orchestras for are Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste, Beirut, Last Shadow Puppets even the Pet Shop Boys. Often compared to Andrew Bird, another hard to define multi-instrumentalist who also plays a mean violin, Pallett has really come into his own on Heartland, which took around nine months to record.

Formerly recording under the name Final Fantasy, after Pallett’s favourite computer game, the name was ditched late last year, presumably to fend off an inevitable legal action from the game’s makers.

The move makes Heartland his first under his own name and is a larger and more epic beast than his previous albums, offering a set of tracks of remarkable consistency. Above all Heartland is an interesting listen that manages the rare feat of remaining accessible. I almost feel intelligent listening to it. Well, almost.

Among the stand out tracks are the Beach Boys-esque ‘Lewis Takes Action’, the bizarre ‘The Great Elsewhere’, which features a great change of pace a third of the way through, and the wonderfully melodic ‘Oh Heartland, Up Yours’. All serve up a fine middle segment and are the ones this reviewer keeps coming back to.

Be warned the album is a concept album though, with an odd theme, surrounding a farmer called Lewis in a fictional world called Spectrum. But don’t let this advanced level geekery put you off, this is a startingly well crafted album and if you liked last year’s critically acclaimed albums by among others Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective then Heartland is a must.


by Joe Lepper, Jan 2010


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