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Music / Owen Pallett

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Michael James Owen Pallett (born September 7, 1979) is a Canadian composer, violinist, keyboardist, and vocalist. Pallett is 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. Pallett has also co-composed the soundtracks for the films The Box and her with Win Butler of Arcade Fire. Indie music fans, however, know Pallett for their 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 (as they appear in editions 3 and 3.5). 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, their 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 the choice to drop the Final Fantasy moniker and release the album and all subsequent releases under their real name.

Owen's next album, In Conflict, was released in May 2014. It features synths and guitar by Brian Eno.

The 2020 album Island serves as a sequel-of-sorts to Heartland, with the return of Lewis' character. This is Owen's first album where the guitar takes a more central role than the violin.

Nick Thornborrow's mostly wordless 58-page comic ''The Songsmith's Heartland'' is an adaptation/interpretation of the concept behind Spectrum, 14th Century and Heartland.

Tropes associated with Owen Pallett include:

  • A God Am I: From "The Butcher":
    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.
  • Rage Against the Author / Rage Against the Heavens: The second half of Heartland.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Final Fantasy moniker is an obvious one. They don't consider any of the games in the series as one of their top 20 video games though.
    • 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 Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the secret seashell quest from The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and Link's Shadow from Zelda II: 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".
    • Word Of God says Eight of the 10 tracks of "He poos Clouds" are connected to the Eight school of magic in Dungeons & Dragons