Michael James Owen Pallett is a Canadian composer, violinist, keyboardist, and vocalist. He's known in the music industry for being a prolific strings arranger and a session musician, whose resume includes work with Arcade Fire
, Grizzly Bear
, Snow Patrol
, Taylor Swift
and many others. He has also co-composed the soundtracks for the films The Box
with Win Butler of Arcade Fire. Indie music fans, however, know him for his solo career under the name Final Fantasy (named after you-know-what) and later on as Owen Pallett. Owen's music is a violin-centered, mostly guitar-free sort of Baroque Pop, occasionally peppered with electronic instruments and rife with allusions to geek lore.
Final Fantasy's debut album, Has a Good Home
, was released in 2005. It is composed of fifteen relatively short songs with quirky titles. The simple, repetitive structure of the songs and the minimal instrumentation utilized, mostly centered around Pallett's violin, make it easy for Pallett to reproduce them in a solo performance with nothing but a violin and a looper.
Final Fantasy's second album, carrying the charming title He Poos Clouds
, was released the following year. It featured richer instrumentation and more complex composition, showing influence of romantic and modern classical music. The album gained additional attention for its loose concept that connects eight of the tracks to the eight schools of magic in Dungeons & Dragons
. He Poos Clouds
has won the 2006 Polaris Music Prize.
In 2008 Pallett released an EP named Spectrum, 14th Century
, which introduced an eponymous fantasy land through songs that glorify said land's supreme deity - Final Fantasy himself. These songs served as exposition for the story told in Pallett next album, his most conceptual and grandiose yet - Heartland
. The album features the Czech Symphony Orchestra and the story it tells is of a "young, ultra-violent farmer" named Lewis who at first serves and then rebels against Spectrum's tyrannical narrator-god (Yes, it's still Owen).
Heartland was the first album by Pallett to be released in Japan, which explains why he chose to drop the Final Fantasy moniker and release the album and all subsequent releases under his real name.
Owen's next album, In Conflict
, was released in May 2014. It features synths and guitar by Brian Eno.
Nick Thornborrow's mostly wordless 58-page comic The Songsmith's Heartland
is an adaptation/interpretation of the concept behind Spectrum, 14th Century
. (Page 18 is corrupted, but it can be found whole in Nick's DeviantArt
Tropes associated with Owen Pallett include:
And of doomsday, the end of the century
In accord with prophecy
Put all your fear, your fire, your family
Into the mouth of Final Fantasy
- Downer Ending: "The Pooka Sings".
- It's Popular, Now It Sucks: The song "This Is the Dream of Win & Regine" is about the cold reaction Arcade Fire got in their hometown of Montreal when they became famous.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Lewis Takes Action" and "Tryst with Mephistopheles" are the two most violent songs in Heartland and at the same time two of the most upbeat ones. In contrast, "What Do You Think Will Happen Now?" describes a happy ending but has a very dreary melody.
- Non-Appearing Title: It's easier to count the songs that have an appearing title.
- One of Us: In addition to the shout-outs described below:
- "An Arrow In The Side of Final Fantasy" uses the melody of the Star Maze level of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. Koji Kondo is credited as the song's composer in the album.
- "Arctic Circle" is about nerds who hide their passions from the people they're dating.
- "He Poos Clouds" seems to be a love song of a gamer to his player character, or of a reader to a fantasy story's protagonist.
- Rage Against the Author / Rage Against the Heavens: The second half of Heartland.
- The moniker he began his career with is an obvious one. Oddly, he doesn't consider any of the games in the series as one of his top 20 video games.
- The title of "This Is the Dream of Win & Regine" alludes to Dntel and Ben Gibbard's "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan" and includes the names of Owen's old colleagues from Arcade Fire.
- "He Poos Clouds" makes some references to Legend of Zelda games - Link's grandmother from The Wind Waker, the secret seashell side quest from Link's Awakening and Link's Shadow from The Adventure Of Link. It also mentions the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia.
- "This Lamb Sells Condos" takes its title from the infamous ads of Toronto realtor Brad J. Lamb. It also names several fashion designers.
- "The Butcher" includes the line "All their bases belong to us".
- Tear Jerker: E For Estranged. Amidst a collection of bombastic songs about high adventure and battles, that fragile piano ballad about a troubled father-son relationship stands in quite a contrast.
- Word of God: Owen often explains the intended meaning of some of his songs in interviews. This includes the concepts behind He Poos Clouds and Heartland, which aren't mentioned in any official material.