How much is Owen Pallett worth?
|Net Worth:||$5 Million|
|Date of Birth:||September 7, 1979|
Who Is Owen Pallett
Owen Pallett is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and orchestral arranger from Toronto who, for much of the ’00s, recorded under the name Final Fantasy. Pallett’s solo shows find him looping numerous violin and keyboard parts into constructed songs. He’s also well known for having arranged albums by Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear, the Mountain Goats, and the Last Shadow Puppets.
Born: September 7, 1979, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Key Albums:Final Fantasy Has a Good Home (2005), He Poos Clouds (2006), Heartland (2010)
Born Michael James Owen Pallett in Toronto to a church-organist father, Pallett began playing the piano when he was three, the grew up studying violin, in a childhood steeped in classical composition. “Modern classical music was always my major interest. I threw away a lot of regular childhood activities, such as playing outside, to stay inside and play modern music,” Pallett recalled, in 2006. “It was totally degrading and awful for me, as a kid, to be obsessed with Bartók, when all my friends were listening to Def Leppard. I’m over it now, but it’s like growing up with polio.”
Studying composition at the University of Toronto, Pallett stumbled into his first ‘pop’ foray, in the band Picastro. “I was reading an interview with Liz Hysen of Picastro,” Pallett recounted, to You Ain’t No Picasso, “talking about how she thought that the way post-rock bands use string instruments was a lot of s**t… It was totally amazing that she felt the same way [I did] so I joined the band and started playing music with them.”
Pallett then fronted the band Les Mouches, who released one impressive LP (2004’s You’re Worth More to Me Than 1000 Christians). When Les Mouches’ recordings started “costing a lot of money,” Pallett began writing solo songs.
Pallett started writing songs via a loop pedal, layering many violin parts into big compositions. “It first started off as a bit of a lark, like: ‘let’s see what happens when I plug my violin into this!’” Pallett says.
Pallett called his new project Final Fantasy, after the popular video game series. “People criticize me for choosing Final Fantasy as a name,” Pallett later defended, to Mocking Music. “I realize that it’s kind of a stupid name but I chose it for very specific reasons. Changing a name would be a very spineless thing to do.”
As Pallett was performing his first shows as Final Fantasy, he had begun working on Funeral, the debut album by Montréal rock outfit Arcade Fire. Funeral became a phenomenon on release, and the band took Pallett on tour, both as performing violinist and opening act. Selling home-made CDRs of his debut album, Final Fantasy Has a Good Home, Pallett’s shows found internet favor, especially his unexpected cover of Mariah Carey‘s “Fantasy.”
“I heard this recording of Ben Gibbard covering Avril Lavigne, and the whole time he’s like: ‘No guys, shut up, this is serious,’ Pallett said to ‘Sup Magazine in 2006. “It’s like, ‘no Ben, try harder’. If you think this is a good song then I want to believe you.”
Has a Good Home came out officially on German label Tomlab in 2005, by when Pallett had started to reassess his musical place. “When I went on tour with Arcade Fire,” he told Radio Free Canuckistan, “I stopped being a musician who was living in Toronto and playing shows with Toronto musicians and making music for my friends. Suddenly my music was being appreciated —or not appreciated— by people I didn’t know in other countries.”
With Pallett having gained notoriety through working, as arranger, with Arcade Fire, the Hidden Cameras, Grizzly Bear, and Beirut, 2006’s He Poos Clouds found a wider audience. The second Final Fantasy set was a concept album based on the schools of magic (abjuration, illusion, conjuration, necromancy, enchantment, divination, evocation and transmutation) in Dungeons and Dragons, which matched Pallett’s voice to a string quartet.
“In an age where every instrument makes it onto every record, I wanted to make a string quartet record,” Pallett said, to Slant. “I was trying to make the songs function as just a vocals and string quartet project, and each song is supposed to be about identifying each of the forms of Dungeons and Dragons in our day to day life,” he offered, in an interview with You Ain’t No Picasso.
After He Poos Clouds was “the subject of Pitchforking and of mainstream music press,” Pallett endeavored to make this third album something that could stand entirely on its own. Soon, he got bogged down in labor (it “was a total fucking chore,” Pallett told Clash), so, in 2008, he turned to two EPs to break the stalemate.
Plays to Please found Pallett covering songs by Alex Lukashevsky, frontman of Toronto’s Deep Dark United, in a big-band style. “I thought it would be interesting to recontextualize his songs in this really glossy Frank Sinatra style, with these really big, fixed arrangements,” he said.
Spectrum, 14th Century, a collection of “fake folksongs” recorded in the New York woods with members of Beirut, sought to introduce listeners to the fictional realm of Spectrum; the land in which Pallett’s third album would take place.
In 2010, Pallett finally released his three-years-in-the-making, Czech-orchestra-boasting third album, Heartland. Due to “the laws of copyright,” he issued the set under his own name, via Domino worldwide. The LP is an “entirely fictional high fantasy” in which a young farmer named Lewis dwelling in Spectrum sings psalms to the realm’s sole deity, an interventionist God named Owen, before eventually slaying him. “It’s about becoming aware of the boundaries of the album that he exists in and thinking about the way his surroundings are constructed,” Pallett says, of his self-reflexive character study.
The Spectrum of Understanding
Three months before Heartland was to be released, Owen Pallett did something curious: posting all the lyrics to his forthcoming album online. Perhaps Pallett was just making sure he beat the imminent leak to the punch, and made sure any enterprising blogger was armed with the right lyrics for their insta-reviews. More likely, he was so bristling with pride that he wanted to get them out there. And, given they’re this good, Pallett deserves to wear them with pride.
Sending the lyrics out in advance of the music made complete sense given the dense fantasy-world Pallett has authored with Heartland. He first introduced the mythical land of Spectrum on the 2008 EP Spectrum, 14th Century, a set of field-recordings made in league with the members of Beirut, in which Pallett introduced the principles of his forthcoming longplaying drama, setting the stage for the story he tells here.
And the key cast are: The Butcher, AKA Owen Pallett, the indifferent and brutal omniscient deity of the land he’s written in song; Cockatrice, a preacher who is a puppet for Pallett, dutifully doing His bidding; Blue Imelda, the sour Queen of Spectrum despised by her people; No-Face, an upper-class socialite who deplores the peasantry; and Lewis, a young farmer whose (homoerotic) love of Owen will lead him to become Spectrum’s emancipating chosen one (albeit in unexpected ways).
This Place is a Narrative Mess
Reading the lyrics to Heartland by themselves, the narrative takes shape: Lewis is summoned from his life of agrarian toil, roused into action by the songwriter-as-deity (“my every move is guided by the bidding of the singer”), on an Epic mission to lead a peasant’s revolt and dethrone Blue Imelda. But, when things start to go awry, Lewis starts losing his faith, questioning the quest he’s on, and the motives of the deity writing the songs (“I shiver with… the indifferences of the Storyteller”). Eventually, Lewis turns on his creator and slays him in a fanciful, symbolic act of the art severing itself from the artist; this chosen one emancipating Spectrum from its true tyrannical hand: that of Owen Pallett. Or, as the LP climaxes: “the author has been removed.”
It’s an incredibly dense narrative —enough for a novel, really— rich with self-reflexivity, from the moment Pallett mocks his own obvious efforts to stick to the story, early, in “Keep the Dog Quiet” (“the journey once was consequential/now: sequential, sequential, sequential, sequential”; a line that comes after the narrator’s confessed “this place is a narrative mess”).
But, for those who just throw on the album as music, never listen to its many words, never marvel at its gifted poetry and tease out its rich themes, is this all this lyrical ambition essentially inconsequential? If a conceptual narrative falls on an album and no one really hears it, does it really exist?
Still, the Violin Plays On
Pallett plays parlor games there, too. His deft arrangements never foreground voice or WORDS, instead making his singing one tiny element in a massive, orchestral work rich with strings and woodwinds; His Master’s Voice verily buried in the mix. These are, in their own way, pop-songs, bright melodies and recurring parts that exist aside from the narrative; music that can be just music. Those who tune in only for the tunes may find a moment’s pause at the oddness of a line like “I grabbed No-Face by his beak and broke his jaw/he’ll never speak again,” but never go any further; never seek its meaning, never make the requisite connections to understand Heartland in all its grandeur.
In an ideal world —a fantasy realm, perhaps— listeners would come to know the lyrics over time; would, in reveling in the girl-group influenced “Lewis Takes Action,” the electro-flecked “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt,” and the meta-fictional orchestra study “E is for Estranged,” slowly piece together this fertile narrative (under)world lurking beneath all the keening orchestral parts.
But, rare is the new-millennial listener with the time, the patience, or the imagination to come slowly to such awareness; to put in all that effort. So, Pallett put the lyrical cart before the musical horse, and threw his words out into the world, politely suggesting people learnt the plot before they sat down to his opera. When you’ve spent years toiling over an album as immense as Heartland, marshaling Arcade Fire members and Nico Muhly and a Czech orchestra in service of your grand narrative ambition, why let the digital era sell it short?