Owen Pallett has decided to ditch his video game inspired moniker (Final Fantasy) in favor of his given name. With this change in title comes the new album Heartland, which takes this musicians sound to a new height. The previous Final Fantasy album had plenty of strings worked into their baroque pop sound. But Heartland takes Pallett’s skills as a composer and runs wild. It should come as no surprise that the album is full of complex string and brass arrangements. Mr. Pallet can be credited with the string arrangements for many of the best albums of the past decade, such as Arcade Fire’s Funeral, Beirut’s The Flying Club Cup, and The Last Shadow Puppets’ The Age of the Understatement.
The album opens with “Midnight Directive” which is a great indicator of what is to come on the rest of the album. It gradually builds from a singular organ to an entire orchestra of instruments. Some moments of Heartland are very reminiscent of movie soundtracks, such as the track “Flare Gun,” and every part of the album is drenched in grandeur. Throughout every song the trumpet calls blare, the strings swell, and it all works together to create an album that shows how complex pop songs can be. His songs follow the general formula of a pop song, but are taken one step further with the dense orchestration Pallett provides. And, as always, his voice stands in stark contrast to the excitement of the music he provides. Even though the vocals always sound somewhat understated, and sometimes a little bored, there is something about the juxtaposition that works.
Beyond the orchestration, however, Pallett also brings in elements of electronic music to take the album even further. Where might be weird to have these two elements sitting together on other albums, tracks like “The Great Elsewhere” mold them together in an incredibly successful way. While listening to the album, you will never question the inclusion of any element, even at its wildest moments every part seems to be serving an important purpose, and you know you can trust Pallett to always know what he is doing when crafting a song.
The bottom line is that, with Heartland, Pallett brings to the table a collection of songs the likes of which are not commonly heard. In today’s musical world, the string and brass sections are mostly reserved for use as supplemental backing material when needed. Here, these incredible aspects of music are brought to the forefront as if purely to flaunt how much can be accomplished when the arrangement of an album is properly executed. Now more than ever, Pallett deserves the attention that has been due to him for years.
Key Tracks: “Keep The Dog Quiet”, “Lewis Takes Action”, “Flare Gun”
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G-U
W = Poor
W-P = OK
W-P-G = Good
W-P-G-U = Great!