Label: Domino

Release Date: January 12, 2010

Stepping out from behind the Final Fantasy moniker he wore for his first two albums, Canadian violinist, composer and pop music extraordinaire Owen Pallett has produced with his third, Heartland, twelve tracks laden with a perfect organic fusion of pop and classical arrangements that bear the mark of a skilled yet sensitive hand. Armed with the class of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and ably assisted in parts by Nico Muhly, the orchestral arranger for the last Grizzly Bear and Antony And The Johnsons albums, Pallett has released a singularly original, vital and lyrically existential piece of work, an excellent way to kick off the new year for true music lovers and aficionados of the artist in particular.

Always sporting a pop centre, Heartland ebbs and flows, resting on a meticulous mixture of electronic loops, tweaks and beats that combine seamlessly with rich strings, horns and traditional orchestral percussion. The tension that underpins the music is readily recognisable with every twist and turn. Equally impressive is the navel gazing lyrical theme that sees the artist pitted against an ultra violent unreasonable farmer named Lewis. The album is peppered with literate contemplation as Pallett examines his actions in response to his protagonist. Vocally he has never sounded better, in fact musically, lyrically and vocally, Heartland is the total package.

Standout tracks include the sonically adventurous opener ‘Midnight Directives and the album’s two centrepiece tracks, the jaunty, trippy, yet pastoral  ‘Oh Heartland, Up Yours’ and the pulsing tangle ‘Lewis Takes Off His Shirt’. Other highlights are the off kilter, almost creepy ‘Keep The Dog Quiet’, the immmediate ‘The Great Elsewhere’, the beautiful lament, ‘E For The Estranged’ and the punchy ‘Tryst With Mephistopheles’.

Overall, Pallett has excelled with Heartland. It’s depth of arrangement and mastery of the pop genre is truly remarkable It’s an ambitious yet humble effort and by far his most complete effort surpassing in depth and ambition his last under the Final Fantasy moniker, the unusually titled He Poos Clouds.This album had a great deal of competition in grabbing the first Indie30 feature album of 2010. With the quality of the competition, in essence, its a testimony to Heartland’s intelligence, imagination and lasting qualities, most of which are yet to unravel. This reviewer looks forward to unfurling this album further as the year progresses. Stunning!

James Stocker – February 1, 2010