Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Learn to appreciate Heartland by Owen Pallett

Okay, so Heartland leaked a while ago, but it wasn't actually officially released until January 11th fo this year and since then the music blogs and sites have critiqued Mr. Pallett's (who recently dropped his Final Fantasy stage name) as being slightly uninspired and not all that interesting to listen to. Reviews have been mediocre all around. Well here's why I intend to fully appreciate and listen to the newest release from the Arcade Fire violinist and former member of the amazing indie group Les Mouches.

I have always seen Pallett as a composer. This word is often not attributed enough to indie bands and artists of today; in fact it seems to be reserved almost exclusively for classical composers and movie soundtrack creators. However there are many people in the music genres outside of symphonic orchestras and classic composition that deserve the label just enough. In fact, within reason, anyone who writes their own music for any number of instruments, whether it be for one guitar or ten obscure xylophones and vibraphones (we get it, Sufjan) could be considered a composer.

But let's not get carried away. Not everyone has the ability to churn out tasteful and interesting melodies and rhythms like some artists of today. I fully include Owen Pallett in this category of "composers". If you really want to get picky, he did in fact grow up with classical training and was composing by the age of 13 for the violin, his main instrument of choice. On top of brilliant melodies from his first two albums, "He Poos Clouds" and "Has A Good Home", the lyrical thought behind Pallett's work is something to be reckoned with.

"Heartland" is, in my opinion, completely on par with Pallett's previous work. While others definitely do not agree with me, I find it to be a natural and smooth progression of his work and talent. It is normal to watch an artist grow and change their style; some do it in leaps and bounds that make no sense. Others have gradual arabesque like transitions into new, more experimental and more interesting work. Pallett is the latter. "Heartland" is different to be sure; it has more in it, more strings and more noises to wrap your head around. But this is the beauty of the complicated compositions Owen has presented us with. It is clear that Pallett has steered himself towards a more experimental path; on "Heartland" he is trying out a lot of new things. And for someone who is exploring new territory, he does it with a beautiful ease, and with sounds pleasing to the ear.

Everyone critiques a musician in the first stages of their experimentalism; Stravinsky was harpooned by critics on the first showings of his "Rite of Spring" and later in his career was even more critiqued for his explorations in "Les Noces". He was even arrested for redoing the Star Spangled Banner (which is apparently illegal). I'm not comparing Stravinsky and Pallett's music, rest assured. What I am saying is: give the man a chance.

Pallett is taking new strides with "Heartland" and personally I am excited and ready to see where he takes them. I saw Owen live a couple nights ago at La Maroquinerie in Paris, France. He was quiet, reserved, but ever receptive and grateful for the audience. He let us select the encores and came back twice. The music live was impressive, grand, large, and Owen's stage presence is strong despite the fact it is only him and one other person with a couple instruments.

"Heartland" is something to listen to more than once. It's different, it's new, it's kind of weird, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. And I think you will too.

For your listening pleasure,
"Keep The Dog Quiet" track 2 from "Heartland"
"Flare Gun" track 9 from "Heartland"

Pallett at La Maroquinerie in Paris on January 24th. Photo by me.


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