Owen Pallett provides an expected followup with Heartland

When Owen Pallett announced he would change his recording moniker from Final Fantasy back to his original name, the primary reason was because “the laws of trademark infringement exist for good reason.” That may be so, but fans could have understandably seen that as something of a distancing from the violinist’s past work. But his newest album is not quite a distancing from the violinist’s past work. Or, I mean, much at all. Heartland, instead, is more or less a retreading of similar, past ideas. They’ve been fleshed out at points, true, and sometimes Pallett stumbles on some beautiful melodies, but it ultimately seems like something of a minor work.

One of the nice additions compared to, say, He Poos Clouds (under the Final Fantasy name) is the more liberal use of synthesizers. These turn the random sounds beginning “The Great Elsewhere” into a wonderful, string-propelled finale, and keep “Lewis Takes off his Shirt” from falling stagnant. When they’re (mostly) excluded, sometimes the songs falter as a result: “Oh Heartland, Up Yours!” ultimately bores with its quiet marching band cadence and comparatively minimal instrumentation; “Lewis Takes Action” is mostly just forgettable.

But as much as synths seem to work for Pallett, I think my main gripe might be with his voice. A short, intense string interlude should be tense and jarring, but Pallett’s voice on “Mount Alpetine” isn’t nearly abrasive enough to sell it. Elsewhere, his vocals nearly always just complement the track, rather than lifting it to the next level. The only notable exception is “Red Sun No. 5,” which is probably the most gorgeous song on Heartland, and it’s mostly due to Pallett’s voice towards the end.

So basically the album’s worth listening to if you’re already a fan, but anyone new to the Final Fantasy/Pallett club would be better starting somewhere else. Or here, actually. Just listen to his scattered great songs, and you’ll make it out okay. Promise!

Owen Pallett – “Oh Heartland, Up Yours!” [MP3]

Owen Pallett – “Red Sun No. 5” [MP3]

Owen Pallett – “The Great Elsewhere” [MP3]

Purchase Heartland here

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