In Review...Owen Pallett, Hawksley Workman

>> Monday, 1 February 2010

Owen Pallett

After garnering so much attention by taking Canada's inaugural Polaris Music Prize in 2006 with the album He Poos Clouds, Canadian chanteur/violinist Owen Pallett has stepped out from behind the Final Fantasy moniker to release Heartland under his birth name. 

Heartland is a concept-ish album about a farmer named Lewis confronting his demons - not exactly the best-sounding place to enter Pallett's body of work - but in fact Heartland is a singularly striking work, one that grabs the listener from the opening organ and haunting voice of "Midnight Directives" to the piano and layered vocals of closer "What Do You Think Will Happen?".

Throughout, Pallett and guest musicians (including the St. Kitts' Winds and the Czech Symphony Strings, and members of The Arcade Fire) bring both majesty and modesty to tracks, with arrangements ranging from piano and voice to strings, loops, orchestration, percussion, and singing. Time signatures, arrangements and Pallett's often soft delivery of absolutely incredible lyrics means Heartland ain't exactly a sing-along album; instead, it promises to be one of the most thoughtful, profound releases of 2010. 

-Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

Choice Cuts: “The Great Elsewhere”, “Midnight Directives”, “Lewis Takes Action”
R.I.Y.D.: Destroyer, Joanna Newsom, The Decemberists,
Label: Domino Records

Hawksley Workman

Meat can be tasty. But somewhat overcooked in parts.

The inexhaustible and versatile Hawksley Workman’s eleventh(!) record is bold and bombastic, an 11 tracker that sees Workman delve into many different styles. Kicking off with the elegant and vulnerable piano ballad “Song for Sarah Jane”, this painfully touching sensibility quickly transforms into self-assured swagger during fuzzy glam-rocker “French Girl in LA.” Right after, the surefooted Workman stumbles. Sleepy “Baby Mosquito” sounds effortless and uninspired, 8+ minute-long epic “You Don’t Just Want To Break Me (You Want To Tear Me Apart)” needs a few minutes lopped off, and the cocky strut of “Depress My Hangover” is a little too flamboyant and daffy.

Fortunately, Workman regains his songwriting foothold toward the end with splendid pop jingle “The Happiest Day I know is a Tokyo bicycle” and desperately breathless album sealer “We’ll Make Time.” On Meat, there’s no doubt Workman can handle a variety of styles and is consistently able to perform some awe-inspiring vocal gymnastics. He just needs some editing.

-Mykael Sopher

Rating: 2.5/4.0
Choice Cuts: “Song for Sarah Jane”, “French Girl in LA”, “(The Happiest Day I Know is a) Tokyo Bicycle).”
R.I.Y.D.: U2, Tegan and Sara, Sam Roberts
Label: Isadora Records


Phil H 3 February 2010 at 21:28  

Great to see another reviewer on the blog, Myk! Ben knows what he's talking about.


Phil H 4 February 2010 at 17:52  

Oh, and you're not bad either.


psychlops,  6 February 2010 at 10:27  

Just bought the new Owen Pallett! I am very excited to give it a listen.

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