Tag Archive | "Owen Pallett"

The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

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The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

Posted on 17 May 2019 by Joe

What an enviable position The Mountain Goats are in. Beloved by fans and garnering new ones with each release. The band – of songwriter and singer John Darnielle, bassist Peter Hughes, drummer Jon Wurster and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas – can essentially do as they please.

The Mountain Goats - In League with Dragons

This time around, on The Mountain Goats  In League with Dragons, they are exploring some familiar themes of recent releases. As on All Eternals Deck ( 2011), Beat the Champ (2015) and Goths (2017) celebrity looms large. But this time around the icons are not the likes of Judy Garland, Charles Bronson or Chavo Guerrero. Instead, for some tracks at least, they are the wizards and characters of the game Dungeons and Dragons. Is there any real difference?

To produce, The Mountain Goats have enlisted Owen Pallett – the multi-instrumentalist who used to record under the name Final Fantasy and wrote a similarly obscure and wonderful rock opera of his own dedicated to ‘fantasy’, called Heartland (2010).

It’s a perfect blend with Pallett giving The Mountain Goats room to go off on their flights of fancy. Pallett, who has worked previously with Darnielle and co, even allows the pitch perfect country number Waylon Jennnings Live! to shine.

He also draws out the fine melody of each track  with An Antidote to Strychnine and Scilian Crest  among many high points.

John Darnielle, by Joe Lepper (2015)

John Darnielle, by Joe Lepper (2015)

Is there a good single? Not really, The Mountain Goats have never really been a singles band, although Cadaver Sniffing Dog is a close contender. But those that adore the soft folk/rock, pop, celebrity and piano of recent album releases will find a lot to love here. As said, an enviable position to be indeed.


By Joe Lepper

For more information visit here – The Mountain Goats In League with Dragons.


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Owen Pallett – In Conflict


Owen Pallett – In Conflict

Posted on 25 June 2014 by Joe

Heartland, the 2010 debut album by Canadian multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallett and first since he shed his Final Fantasy moniker, blew us away. It’s epic subject matter of a fantasy world of violence was packed full of gorgeous melodies, dramatic lyrics and superb orchestral pop.


Lyrically and musically In Conflict is a different beast. Following a tour with The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle, who specialises in autobiographical lyricism and story telling, Pallett has taken a more personal approach. Gone is the fantasy kingdom of Heartland that the fictional god Owen Pallett oversaw and in are stories and emotions direct from the modern day, Earth based man himself.

With this more personal focusthe music needs less drama. There’s still epic flourishes and touches but on the whole its Pallett’s voice that is given more space and vocally he sounds great here.

There’s also less violin looping and trickery too, with Pallett happy to let synths and a strong section take the strain. This gives it an ever so slight 1980s feel, with some tracks reminiscent of acts such as Depeche Mode or Soft Cell. I Am Not Afraid even has a wonderful David Sylvian Forbidden Colours moment half way through. On a Pathway and In Conflict are also great electro pop and the horns on Chorale are superb.

As Pallett moves further out of the shadow of his former stage name, which he abandoned for copyright reasons, his career and incredible ear for interesting pop continues to progress.


by Joe Lepper


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Top 20 Albums of 2010

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Top 20 Albums of 2010

Posted on 20 December 2010 by Joe

We usually compile a top ten albums of the year list, but in recognition  of 2010 being one of the best years in recent memory for indie/alternative releases we’ve decided to double the size.

The year started well with ambitious albums by the likes of Field Music, Los Campesinos! and Owen Pallett and got better with stellar releases from the likes of The National, the welcome return of Belle and Sebastian and some surprises from the likes of Janelle Monae. Some familiar names return to our end of year countdown on a list that features some excellent new UK music. Sit back, get your emails to Santa ready and enjoy Neon Filler’s Top 20 Albums of 2010.

1. Field Music Measure

Measure, a double album no less, sees the band move on yet another level. There are aspects of the sweeping, mazy songs on their eponymous debut as well as the jerky, more structured pop of second album Tones of Town, but a whole lot more has been added. Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, even ELO, XTC, The Move and 10cc are thrown into the mix. This album came out at the beginning of the year but its breadth and ambition continues to astound as the year comes to an end.  Read our full review here.

2. The Miserable Rich – Of Flight and Fury

Of Flight and Fury is the second album from Brighton’s The Miserable Rich and it picks up from where their excellent debut left off. Part of Brighton’s Willkommen Collective they are the most compact and focused of the bunch. One of our top ten bands to watch out for in 2011, we are expecting big things from this band. Read our full review here.

3. Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern – Essex Arms

The album is the second part in a trilogy about Hayman’s native Essex and continues with a warts and all nostalgic look at working class England. Like its predecessor Pram Town (which topped our Top Ten Albums of 2009 list) Essex Arms is wonderfully evocative of a place and time, without descending into sneering or cloying sentiment. Surely Hayman has earned national treasure status by now.  Read our full review here.

Essex Arms

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern - Essex Arms

4. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Deerhunter have named their fourth album Halcyon Digest for good reason, as once again the US band serves up an unusual and effective mix of music that takes a range of influences from the golden years of rock n roll to the 1990s shoegazers. Halcyon Digest is lush, layered and timeless. Deerhunter’s most focused and accessible album yet. Read our full review here.

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

5. Janelle Monae

The debut album from former stage school kid and Outkast collaborator Janelle Monáe could well be the most eclectic album of the year so far. Mixing orchestral pieces, hip hop, soul, pop, psychedelic rock, folk and even a collaboration with Of Montreal into 18 tracks. It is ambitious and mesmerising as it effortless travels between genres. Read our full review here.

6. Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love

It’s been a long wait for such adoring fans, but the band are now firmly back after a four year hiatus touring and with a sparkly new album, Write About Love, a concept album of sorts about, well, love. So where does Write About Love sit in its catalogue?  For us its one of their best yet. Welcome back Belle and Sebastian. Read our full review here.

Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love

7. The Walkmen – Lisbon

With Lisbon US band The Walkmen have delivered a perfect follow up to their last album You and Me, which topped our Top Ten Albums list for 2008. Retaining You and Me’s stripped back, timeless production with nods to the 50s and 60s, Lisbon has plenty more goose bump moments and once again offers a perfect showcase for lead singer Hamilton Leithhauser’s stunning rock vocals and the band’s love of vintage instruments. Read our full review here.

8. Owen Pallett – Heartland

With the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara involved, Heartland is at times pure Brian Wilson  as it effortlessly takes in aspects of classical music, electronica, pop and indie-cool. Read our full review here.

Owen Pallett

9. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

As debuts go Astro Coast is already a modern indie classic. Full of  a marvellous mix of riffs, indie rock influences such as  Sonic Youth and Pavement, passionate singing and some neat tricks as well. It is all that is good about the best of modern US indie rock. Read our full review here.

10. The National  – High Violet

How can a band this good, this radio friendly, this professional not be bigger? Why is it that the likes of Muse, Radiohead and Coldplay play in front of multi-zillion seater stadiums and headline major festivals and not The National? After the release of High Violet The National are well on their way to similar success. Read our full review here.

11. Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago.

When the end of the world comes, as pollution lays waste to the Earth, Shearwater’s leader singer Jonathan Meiburg will be on a nuclear  ravaged tropical island somewhere screaming bloody murder in his haunting baritone at the corporations and politicians. This indie/folk/rock album is powerful stuff. Read our full review here.

12. Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt

Swedish folk singer Kristian Matsson, who takes to the stage under the name Tallest Man On Earth, must be bored to tears with being compared with early Bob Dylan, especially when in many respects he is actually better than the great man at the same stage in his career. Read our full review here.

13. Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Opening track and lead single ‘The High Road’ kicks things off beautifully on this debut album from Shins frontman James Mercer and producer Danger Mouse and is a sign of the good things to come. By the time you’ve listened to ‘Vaporise’ and Mercer’s surprisingly good falsetto on ‘The Ghost Inside’ you know that the duo have produced something worthy of an end of year best of list. Read our full review here.

14. Beach House  – Teen Dream

The slicker production and attention to detail  on Teen Dream  compared to previous releases unsurprisingly coincides with a move to the label Sub Pop, which has a strong track record of getting the best out of its eclectic mix of artists ranging from The Fleet Foxes to Postal Service. Read our full review here.

15. Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring

Los Campesinos! are among the most divisive of bands. A bunch of shouty students, spouting immature teen angst to some, one of the most innovative British bands around for others. Their 2010 release Romance is Boring is a pretty good case for the latter’s cause. Read our full review here.

16. New Pornographers – Together

When we first heard the song ‘Your Hands (Together)’, from the fifth album by The New Pornographers, we were disappointed. So much so that we avoided the album and didn’t review it on this site. But after hearing another track from the album, the brilliant ‘Crash Years’ (one of our songs of the year) we realised we were missing out. Building on the more subtle styles of 2007’s Challengers with a return to the more bombastic power chords of their earlier albums this is classic pop music at its best.

The New Pornographers - Together

17. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night

After the first 30 seconds of opening track ‘Like The Ocean Like The Innocent’ we were sceptical. We’ve heard enough meandering drone rock to last a lifetime, but nine minutes later at the end of the track we were converted. This is music with genuine substance and power. Read our full review here.

18. Allo Darlin’

Allo Darlin’s self titled debut is a near perfect slice of British “twee” pop played by associates of Amelia Fletcher and Darren Hayman. Melodic, sweet and sensitive it has possible singles from start to finish. The more jaded listener might find songs like ‘Heartbeat Chili’ a little hard to stomach, but if you keep your mind open there is much to love here. One of the discoveries of 2010, and very much a band to watch in 2011.

Allo Darlin

19. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

Second appearance for Danger Mouse in our top 20, this time his long awaited collaboration with the late Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse. Unreleased for some time due to contractual wrangles it was originally intended to accompany a book of visuals by David Lynch. The book was published, but the album itself was shelved and emerged some months later during 2010. It features contributions from a number of singers and musicians including the Flaming lips, Suzanne Vega, Iggy Pop, can be a difficult listen in places but as you would expect from Linkous and Danger Mouse, stunning in others. Read our full review here.

20. Fang Island  – Fang Island

Imagine if you will Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyons, but better, speeded up and backed by members of Primus, Faith No More and The Descendents. It’s a heady mix of humour, power chords and squealing solos that Fang Island pull off with aplomb. Read our full review here.

To hear more by the bands above (and some other great acts from the year) listen to our best of 2010 Spotify playlist.

See Also – Top Ten Albums of 2008, Top Ten Albums of 2009

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers


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Owen Pallett – Heartland

Posted on 21 September 2010 by Joe

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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