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Owen Pallett - A Swedish Love Story

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Artist: Owen Pallett

Album: A Swedish Love Story

Label: Domino

Review date: Oct. 15, 2010

There really isn’t a lot to say about Owen Pallett’s latest EP, A Swedish Love Story. It’s enjoyable and certainly a continuation of the work he’s been doing, while at the same time, it tones down the complexity of his longer albums. Pallett recorded Story in this manner to give himself some rest after Heartland, and the EP succeeds on these terms. The pop elements of his work are brought to the forefront, without losing the classical influence and avant-garde aims of his longer works. It’s decidedly a Pallett album, just breezier. I like it.

What I like even more, though, is that there is an aim to this EP, a purpose, a thought beforehand, and that it is not simply some cast-off tracks that didn’t fit on Heartland. For many, EPs aren’t actual aesthetic objects. They’re just a chance to put some songs together. Which is fine. As a fan, I’m surely happy to hear as much of certain artists as I can. At the same time, the artistic utopian in me thinks that EPs, rarities compilations, etc. are just easy ways to cash in when there’s no artistic point in doing so. Obviously real, existing, actual art takes place at the nexus of commercial and artistic concerns (as well as a host of others), and it’s foolish of me to expect a.) that an artist with worthwhile leftover songs from a certain project won’t commodify them, especially if that artist wants to make a living off of their music, b.) that all artists should think of albums they release as coherent aesthetic objects, and c.) that fans (including myself) won’t want, or pay for, or hear these songs.

Knowing all this then, when I do see an artist, like Pallett here, put thought into an EP, it makes me appreciate it even more. It also shows the differences between his classical background and the backgrounds other indie musicians come out of. Ligeti or Pärt don’t go into a recording session with a bunch of movements and create a full piece out of them, with, maybe, some leftovers. They have a vision beforehand, and they let that vision – a concept, a theme, a narrative, a structure – guide their composition. Whereas, a rock sort of background is grounded in the song itself as the primary unit and an album as merely a compilation of these songs.

It’s no wonder Pallett’s work is more complex. He’s thinking – even on an EP – on a different scale than most indie musicians.

By Andrew Beckerman

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