Island, the latest album from Oscar-nominated composer and songwriter Owen Pallett, is out via Domino / Secret City Records (Canada). A varied yet often sombre record, Island is a sheer pleasure to listen to with it being virtually impossible to walk away from with a lack of regard for the composer.
In addition to Pallett’s Grammy award-winning work with Arcade Fire, Pallett’s commissions have included string, brass and orchestral arrangements for Frank Ocean, Caribou, the Last Shadow Puppets, the National, The Mountain Goats, Christine and the Queens, R.E.M., Linkin Park, Sigur Rós, Taylor Swift, and the Pet Shop Boys. He has quite the back catalogue. Since the release of In Conflict in 2014, Pallett has earned an Oscar nomination for their film scoring work on Spike Jonze’s Her, and an Emmy for Sølve Sundsbø’s Fourteen Actors Acting. With his present role, it is hardly surprising to find that Island is such a cinematically stunning album.
Almost abbrasively acoustic, it begins with 13 darkened chords. The record was recorded live at Abbey Road Studios with the London Contemporary Orchestra, a decision that really paid off. The initial track has a waking up vibe, which then moves to a perky, acoustic Transformer, whereas Paragon of Order has a dissonance to it that renders it an ominous and rather difficult listen. The Sound of The Engines has an inquisitiveness to its sound, reflective and melodic, a ballad to encase the record with a warmth, despite the formidable lyrics.
Island is about being alive, asking why, and all the horrendous aspects of life. Polar Vortex is about madness personified, for example, and has relativity to it, he may have not realised whilst writing this LP. Underscored by almost flawless acoustic guitar, there is a wondrous beauty to this track, which is fused with these dark lyrics.
The first of the singles to be released from Island, A Bloody Morning has Radiohead vibes, until we hear that choir-like vocal. Keys and percussion rising in discord and note, there is plenty going on as we listen to Pallett sing about the passengers tumbling overboard into the sea. The concluding track, In Darkness, holds a woodwind note, edging us towards our place of discomfort with the static elements to the track. At six minutes and twenty-seven seconds it’s an epic one, which obviously veers from the static to an off-key ballad, alogether not an easy listen. Representative of the Island as a whole.
Island is out now, via Domino Records.