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Heartland, Owen Pallett

Domino, January 12, 2010

Track Listing: 1. Midnight Directives, 2. Keep the Dog Quiet, 3. Mount Alpentine, 4. Red Sun No. 5, 5. Lewis Takes Action, 6. The Great Elsewhere, 7. Oh Heartland, Up Yours!, 8. Lewis Takes Off His Shirt, 9. Flare Gun, 10. E Is for Estranged, 11. Tryst with Mephistopheles, 12. What Do You Think Will Happen Now?

Here we go, again. This time, a Saturday night, not long after midnight—the time when the city’s delicate balance begins to show signs of tipping, slipping from the banal or even the joys that make up the day-to-day and sliding into the dark places where headline news is born. A vibration comes from somewhere inside the rot. A single heartbeat. One. Man versus Nature. One. Man versus Creator. Hearkening back to the days of pinball wizards, Ziggy Stardust, and a man named Pink—a time when art and artists were revered, my fingers touch down against a thin, aluminum keyboard.

In the documentary, It Might Get Loud, Jack White discusses the influence of Son House and how life-changing it was to hear music so sonically and emotionally charged coming from just one man and his guitar. I listen for myself and hear it too. The White Stripes are a band that took me by surprise in many similar ways—jarring my perspective of how much sound come be born from so little—and so coming to Son House through their back door was appropriate, akin to joining together two puzzle pieces.

I compare it to seeing Owen Pallett at the 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival. It was a completely different sound, but one cut from the same minimalist, eye-opening template. What helped make his set so surprising was not only that the stripped bare sound and fury had come from one voice accompanied by a lonely violin, but also the sequence of the festival’s Saturday lineup in which Pallett followed the hardcore punk band, Fucked Up. The contrast was striking to say the least.

My thoughts turn for a moment to a certain cute, fury four-legged creature: my ever faithful and loving dog, Jax. At the risk of going all Gene Wilder in Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask, it is here that I confess to a rather absurd admission. That is, although Jax doesn’t not know it, my dog and I now share a song. You know, like high school sweethearts or married couples. Yikes! Is that true confession enough for you?

It came to be as follows. One night, Jax and I were locked in a customary test of wills, reprising our ongoing tug of war rivalry. Who would let go of the stuffed kitty first? As Jax growled with delight, I toyed with his intense concentration. And then, a song from Owen Pallett’s album Heartland began to play on the stereo. It was “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt.” I held tightly and began taunting Jax further by singing the crescendoing chorus refrain—I’m never going to give it to you, I’m never going to give it to you. Jax growled back, more excited than ever, teeth firmly locked in place.

A few months later, I was sick with worry as I anxiously awaited news from the vet. Trying to distance myself from the brutal stress that defines any waiting game, I put on headphones. Owen Pallett’s Heartland was still on major rotation. When “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” came on this time and I heard that familiar chorus again—I’m never going to give it to you, I’m never going to give it to you—I was immediately overwhelmed. From that point forward, I knew that as unlikely or absurd as it sounded, my dog and I now had a song.

But as for the point at hand—my excitement over Owen Pallett’s Heartland—it felt as though I had stumbled upon another piece of the puzzle. And when you find new pieces that fit, you promptly lock them into place. The result affords a new perspective of the ever-expanding picture. For that, you are grateful.

There is more to say but I am interrupted by a slimy toy being pushed against my leg. Jax is growling, demanding my attention, wanting to play. How could I say no?

Some things in this life are just plain irresistible.