With the release of a few more albums like Owen Pallett's "Heartland," Activision might want to get cracking on the next installment of its popular video game series: Violin Hero. Pallett -- known as Final Fantasy until a few weeks ago -- is a 30-year-old Canadian singer/violinist who won the country's Polaris Music Prize for his previous album. He also helps compose the sweeping string arrangements for fellow countrymen Arcade Fire, and, along with the likes of Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens, is helping to give the guitar a run for its money as indie instrument of choice.
With "Heartland," Pallett goes conceptual, creating an album about a violent farmer living in a fictional world called Spectrum. The theme is hard to wrap your head around, but Pallett's tunes go down surprisingly easy. His violin and relaxed falsetto serve as the centerpiece to songs that reveal themselves as modern-baroque soundtrack fare. Dramatic string flourishes and textured electronics are equally present; it's like Busby Berkeley meets "Run Lola Run."
The tension created by the mingling of classical instruments and percolating bleeps is what makes "Heartland" succeed. The screeching violin at the beginning of "The Great Elsewhere" would usually signal the arrival of silent-movie villain, but glitchy electronics soon bubble up and give it a decidedly futuristic feel. The barrage of instrumentation is sometimes exhausting but rewards repeated listens.
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