Violin virtuoso Owen Pallett – whose composition and session-musician credits range from Holy Fuck to Death From Above 1979 to Beirut – has said that his first record under his own name (following two critically-acclaimed albums as Final Fantasy) forms a narrative arc, telling the story of a young farmer named Lewis addressing his creator. Though the idea might seem initially preposterous, the album is three-quarters of an hour of pent-up energy, massive minor chords, and onslaughts of beautiful, violent orchestration, reflecting lyrics that express a frustrated, trapped, violent young man facing the whims of some omnipotent power. “My body is a cage,” goes one song (“Keep the Dog Quiet,” the record’s second song and one of its highlights). “Haven’t you heard, I am a flightless bird,” goes another. And another, “I’m never going to give it to you.”
Heartland is a record you can drown in, musically. “Every move is guided by the bidding of the singer,” Pallett croons in “Lewis Takes Action,” a song so infinitely complex – with “Be My Baby” percussion, marching-band low brass, whirling strings, and looped voices – that you could play it seven thousand times in a row and still hear something new every listen. That lyric most accurately describes Heartland as a whole: it’s impossibly vast, incredibly deep, and ridiculously intricate, but despite its ridiculous lyrical concept and complicated orchestrations, you can never forget about Pallett’s control.
85 — [Rating Scale]