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« SPOON - Transference | Main | VAMPIRE WEEKEND - Contra »
Friday
Jan152010

OWEN PALLETT - Heartland

Mark this as the moment that Owen Pallett truly stepped up to assume the mantle that was his. That may seem a naive—or even ignorant—thing to say given Pallett's considerable success to date. But I really can't think of another way to convey the stunningly confident triumph that is Heartland. Whether scoring indie all-stars such as Grizzly Bear and Arcade Fire or winning the Polaris Prize with 2006's He Poos Clouds, it's not as though he's been lacking feathers in his cap—even if they had all been previously under the name Final Fantasy.

Heartland bests them all, managing to make the best case yet for his savvy marriage of classical flourishes and sophisticated pop, not to mention a host of other influences. Opener "Midnight Directives" skips and shuffles like the lost twin of Bjork's classic Homogenic cut, "Hunter". Where that song was full of taut menace broken only by a gorgeous bridge, Pallett reverses the equation here—allowing the bright and spritely song to build in giddy momentum only to tumble into a subtly shady chorus. It would be a great tune on an acoustic guitar, but the layers added here are remarkable, recalling some of Rufus Wainwright's recent highwater marks for densely elaborate, but emotionally effective orchestration. And that's just the opener.

Throughout, Pallett's talent never wavers. The electro-loop constructed out of a Bach fugue that powers "The Great Elsewhere." The gently increased pressure that comes with each "I'm never gonna give it to you" of "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt." The baroque kraut of "Tryst With Mephistopholes." And did I mention that above all of this, Heartland is a concept record? It's a real testimony to the deliciously stacked aural density of this album that it'll probably take another couple months of listening to it before I even feel the inclination to process that side of it. It's a record of which Pallett should be immensely proud—I'd have put my real name on it, too.

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