Toronto’s Owen Pallett has made a considerable name for himself in just the last five years. From his understated 2005 album Has A Good Home to his 2010 orchestral opus Heartland, he has proven his musical range and incredible composing skills and received much critical acclaim, including the inaugural Polaris Prize for He Poos Clouds. Owen’s specialty during live performances is looping polyphonic melodies through a mechanized pedal, which allows him to manipulate each tune to rise and fall at just the right moment and make something spectacular. He accomplishes this with only his trusty violin and his voice, creating a melancholy-sounding yet addicting brand of beautiful, handcrafted music.
On A Swedish Love Story EP, Pallett gives us four brand-new tracks. The EP could be read as an addendum to Heartland in that each song features the layered complexity displayed on the preceding album, and many of the same instrumental effects are used (especially his trademark violin). The difference here is the fresh addition of pop sensibilities into the mix, which turns out to be the perfect step onward. Tinged with synthesizers and carried along by Pallett’s dulcet vocals, the upbeat songs are nothing short of irresistible. Each is uniquely sophisticated, requiring multiple listens to grasp their subtle intricacies. Take the opener “A Man With No Ankles” for example: it begins with a flat retro-sounding, repetitive rhythm, but it soon morphs into a triumphant, buoyant fanfare. Another standout track, “Don’t Stop”, provides more soaring violin chords, driven forward by a persistent drum beat. Owen softly echoes, “Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop on my account” throughout the last half of the song so that even as the EP nears its end, the listener is left feeling reassured and optimistic about the future.
I believe the future is bright indeed for Owen Pallett. Be sure to keep an eye out for him; there will certainly be more inventive masterpieces from this virtuoso on the horizon.
A Swedish Love Story EP was released September 27, 2010 by Domino.
Review by Rachel Davidson