Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Lewis Takes Action” by Owen Pallett from his 2010 album Heartland on Domino Records.
Final Fantasy, one-man band extraordinaire Owen Pallett returns to the pit (orchestra, not mosh) with his latest batch of video game-inspired pop narratives. His third proper album and first for Domino, Heartland, marks Pallett’s first release since dropping the make-believe-band moniker. All copyright infringements and confusion aside, the move to solo status makes perfect sense given the fact that all along Pallett has been more or less composing and performing his music in solitude. Well known for his charismatic and exciting live sets (see “Lewis Takes Off his Shirt” live at the Hillside Festival below), Pallett commands his audience with little more than a violin, keyboard, loop pedal and microphone. And while his tools are indeed minimal, Pallett somehow succeeds in filling all that empty space -- avoiding the pitfalls of your typical lone gunman show (dead air, canned vocals, recorded tracks, YAWNING) -- with lushly laid loops that mimic the effect of a seasoned string section at his back.
This of course also rings true on Heartland, even more so in fact as his live sets are actually a stripped down version of his records and this latest effort is by far his most ambitious. Heartland is still Final Fantasy: the entire record serving as a backdrop to an imaginary storyline surrounding the exploits of a character named Lewis, and each of the album’s 12 songs serve as a sort of chapter throughout which the story’s protagonist (an “ultra-violent farmer”) examines his relationship with the creator who happens to be... wait for it... Owen Pallette. I must say this album is odd, not hugely accessible to the run of the mill music fan but still quite thought-provoking and, well, lovely to listen to. After all, the character-lines within this alternate world (called Spectrum!) are just fantastical illustrations of humanity, of struggles taking place within hearts and minds of people every day.
“Lewis Takes Action” has got A LOT going on. Pallett’s signature violin work always at play the track also features horns, flutes, marching drums and operatic drama filled vocal hooks. Can you see this as anime, or is it just me?
According to his MySpace page, Owen Pallette is currently on tour in Canada, before he heads overseas to Europe. He’ll be Stateside again this spring and plays what promises to be a unique set at the Crocodile Cafe on May 8th. I’ll be the guy in Catman make-up wearing a cape.
As promised, here’s “Lewis Takes His Shirt Off” live at the Hillside Festival: