Guitars are out. Violins are the new instrument of choice for those wanting to up their coolness. Don’t believe us? Take Canadian multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallett’s arty, achingly personal, violin-led ballads. A niche musical area perhaps, but in Pallett’s capable, creative hands, one that has led to him touring with Arcade Fire, being nominated for an Oscar (for the score he co-wrote with Arcade Fire’s William Butler for Spike Jonze’s Her
) and working with legends like Brian Eno.In Conflict
, the fourth solo album from Pallett (previously writing under the name Final Fantasy), is a sublime demonstration of why he’s held in such high regard. Striking a fine balance between avant-garde and accessible, it’s an intense listen, but full of universally appealing, sparkling melodies, with Pallett’s unfaltering falsetto melting over the top. Don’t be surprised to find passages from "On a Path" or "I Am Not Afraid" lingering with you.
Towards the end of the album, stripped-back love songs give way to something approaching grandiose orchestral rock—a term that understandably fills people with dread. With Pallett at the controls, however, it’s a glorious, engulfing journey, layered with furious riffing and epic vocal turns.In Conflict
is a beautiful and powerful album, light as a feather in its delivery of complicated musical and lyrical ideas, but packing a punch that’s sharp enough to floor most other records released this year.