Owen Pallett, the former Final Fantasy, previously relied on just a violin and loop pedal. His third LP, Heartland, has the distinction of being his first fully orchestral album. Does the music’s newfound complexity retain the charm of his previous releases? For the most part, yes. On record, Final Fantasy has always been very layered; so the expanded instrumentation feels organic and serves as a natural extension to his previous work. I miss the simple setup of yesteryear, but I imagine that the live show will go on as it always has, and I look forward to hearing the different arrangements.
The 2006 Polaris Music Prize winner He Poos Clouds was loosely about the eight schools of magic in Dungeons & Dragons. Heartland has a similarly high concept, the short version being that it’s about a fictional farmer named Lewis that Pallett is enamored with. It’s fitting then that the album’s two best tracks refer to Lewis directly. ‘Lewis Takes Off His Shirt’ stands out as one of Pallett’s best songs ever written, right up there with ‘This Is the Dream of Win and Regine’. The gradual build up and lush textures allow the orchestra to shine. Preceding track ‘Oh Heartland, Up Yours’ also makes great use of the newly available soundscapes, straying away from the string section and leaning toward the strings and woodwinds. ‘Flare Gun’, which has been played live for years now, appears here making it clear that Heartland was long in the making.
Pallett’s first foray under his own name is ultimately a successful one. It’s slow to start, but once ‘Lewis Takes Action’ kicks in, we’re treated to the usual magic. The only sad thing is that I can no longer make any forced video game references, and that’s worse than when Kefka poisoned Doma’s water supply.