My review of Owen Pallett's Heartland is online at Exclaim! right now.
By Andrea Warner
Owen Pallett's now recording under his own name, having shed the Final Fantasy moniker last month, just in time to make his most personal and ambitious album yet. Pop orchestral epic Heartland is tense, cheeky and emotional, a dense amalgamation of sounds that traverse an entirely fictional landscape of Pallett's making. Heartland's narrator, Lewis, has been described as an "ultra-violent" farmer, and while the lyrics certainly lead the listener into some dark places, it's surprising how much of the album plays like catchy, kooky electro-pop. "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt" owes a debt to '70s AM gold, a deceptively cheery sounding number that warns: "Got a thirst for liquid gold, I'll bludgeon 'til the body's cold."
Even songs that combine soaring string arrangements with (what sounds like) woodwind trills, such as exploratory opener "Midnight Detectives," have hummable hooks. There's plenty of moodier fare here as well, like the percussion- and keyboard-heavy "Red Song No. 5" and "E for Estranged," a beautifully melancholy piano-driven piece kept tense with a steady background hum featuring contrasting strings. It's a surreal experience, and Lewis's world is a place that demands to be visited again and again. Heartland is an entirely self-contained universe, with Pallett the master of this domain. (Domino)