Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Yeah, so, we play favourites sometimes. But when it comes to the newly name-reverted Owen Pallett, can you blame us? Since nonchalantly staking claim on our city’s indie music scene as Final Fantasy with 2006’s career-defining sophomore release He Poos Clouds, he’s continued to work with some of the world’s coolest indie bands, won himself a nice little chunk of award money, and proceeded to relentlessly tour his name-making pedal-looped violin into the ground. All of this, plus the grand plans and execution, are the reason that Heartland, out finally today on Domino, has taken over four years since its first mention to see the light of day.
Undeniably a Pallett creation, Heartland is as hard to pin down as anything he does. Just what sect of boring old pop music do we keep trying to stuff Pallet’s brain and its genre-destroying classical compositions into? And how dare we? With his most handy contemporaries being the artists he works closely with (Grizzly Bear, Arcade Fire), Pallett again finds himself in a rare realm of true originality and sheer creativity. Despite the gap between them, Heartland doesn’t differ too wildly from He Poos Clouds; both follow a conceptual arc (leading man Lewis and his exploits are the focus of this one), both employ a head-spinningly dense amount of string instrumentation and manipulation (although auxiliary players like drums and horns make a more noted appearance on Heartland), and both are full of Pallett’s killer subtle snark. In previous releases, each song felt like its own mini film score, but here, standout progress-tracking songs like “Tryst With Mephistopheles” and “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” (streaming above) contribute to the smoother overall narrative that takes Heartland seamlessly and deceivingly quickly from start to finish, and the improved range and control of Pallett’s vocals are just an added bonus. Pallett’s projects and their intricacies must feel so daunting through the process—trees, forest, etc. etc.—so how lucky for us that we get to consume them in a perfect bundle: the story of a life, constructed and destructed as this great imagination sees fit.
Discussing Owen Pallett is one of the very few times/places that it is not only acceptable but completely accurate to use the grossly misappropriated description “epic.” Because he is. Heartland is epic. It’s pretty, unnerving, fun, and intimidating; it sets the bar for releases—local or otherwise—really high, really early in the year.