Slated to be Owen Pallett’s final record under the Final Fantasy moniker he first used to break through a few years back, Heartland reveals the Toronto composer as a bit of a musical claustrophobe, which of course we should probably have already concluded, since he’s a violinist who now makes electronic records—a touch twee, even, but without the ukulele or whatever it is those guys are into these days.
But that’s the very real success of Heartland—it’s neither a spacey textural exploration nor a hummable pop record, but rather both. Just when you’re lost in an intricate waterfall of arpeggios or perhaps bopping your head involuntarily as a killer new drum pattern enters, Pallett will hit with you with a clever lyric or a memorable hook or something else that just shouldn’t be there, not according to the standard blueprints anyway.
Foremost among these would be the refrain from sort-of title track “Oh Heartland, Up Yours!”—actually less amusing in execution than the punctuation might make it seem on paper, instead coming across as a tender Sufjan project gone awry, perhaps lamenting the various cruelties of 50 women instead of celebrating their home states—and perhaps also the sophisticated rhythmic programming on “The Great Elsewhere,” which disguises a lovely soaring melodic curve, but only very poorly, like those sunglasses with the built-in mustaches. There are plenty of strings too, of course, lending a distinguished chamber-pop air to the whole affair which, quite frankly, isn’t needed, because a fine chorus is already pretty damn respectable.