Owen Pallett → Heartland
As with Owen Pallett’s previous EP Spectrum, 14th Century, the songs in Heartland are set in the fictional world of Spectrum. “The songs are set within a world that’s fictional just because I’d rather say it there than in Toronto. That makes things too dicey.” [source]
“I like the title Heartland, it has a double meaning. Along with ‘homeland’, the word seems to signify feelings of familiarity and comfort, but most often, it’s used with a sentiment of xenophobia and/or a sense of entitlement.” [source]
Most of the songs on Heartland are from the point of view of Lewis, a young heterosexual farmer in Spectrum. The exceptions are “Flare Gun” (a leaflet), “E Is for Estranged” (sung by Owen), and “Owen’s Voice” (lyrics unreleased).
Initially devoted to his creator, Lewis leaves his farm and family to serve Owen. As the album progresses, Lewis gains awareness of the nature of their relationship. “[Lewis] isn’t meant to be a metaphor for anything, he’s more of a composite of these things that I’m interested in. Like in the same way somebody else likes to sing about fat bottomed girls, I’m singing about a sexy farmer.” [source] “He’s an amalgamation of things that, to me, are the object of my desire but things that are unfamiliar to me. As a source for him, I was using my brothers and my friends, who live their lives different from me. They’re beautiful people - they inform this ‘otherness’, all the things I’m not.” [source]
Lewis rejects being modelled and controlled for Owen’s own interests and becomes violent towards him.
For an in-depth album analysis, read “Heartland: How to Move” by lyskoi.
Nick Thornborrow drew a wordless webcomic called “The Songsmith’s Heartland” that follows the story of Lewis.
People who inspired Heartland include:
Steve Kado of Blocks Recording Club, who “has several conceptually oriented bands of his own,” and is a great influence on Owen’s life in general. [source]
Literary theorist Roland Barthes, who inspired Owen to “write songs from the perspective of the loved as opposed to the lover” as in A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, [source] and to kill the omniscient creator as in “Death of the Author”. [source]
Science fiction author Ted Chiang. [source]
Silver Apples. [source]
Heartland is Owen’s first orchestral album, recorded with the Czech Philharmonic Strings and the St. Kitts’ Winds. Owen flew to Prague with two weeks to arrange Heartland and The Rumble Strips’ album before recording with Mark Ronson. He finished the latter with ten days to spare for Heartland.
“[It was] probably the lowest point of my life. I’d only finished about half of the orchestral arrangements and the other half was all scraps flying around. So I spent ten days where I didn’t get out of my bed in this hotel and I’d just order room service and occasionally I’d get up and do push ups or sit ups or something so that my body wasn’t turning into a bag of shit. My sleeping patterns got really fucked up, because I’d eat a meal and then sleep for a couple hours and then work and then doze off and sleep for another couple hours, so I was really just working with these little naps all the time and it was really, really hard on me.
“Finally the day came and all the scores were done and Mark was arriving the next day, I printed them off, recorded the session [with the orchestra], and that night I was so, like verklempt from the crazy experience of not leaving the hotel room for ten days. My brain was polluted with thoughts of self-doubt, like maybe the session didn’t go so well. I was kind of listening to it, but I couldn’t really hear it because none of it was mixed, and I was like, ‘Oh no, this was a big mistake.’ And this was a lot of money for me to sink into a record to get an orchestra to play on it. The next day, I was like, on the verge of tears all day, but had to put on a bright and sunny face to work with Mark. So, he’d be there and we’d be doing these Rumble Strips arrangements and he’d leave the room to talk to D’Angelo or whatever, and I’d be crying and crying and crying and he’d come back in and I’d wipe my eyes, and be like, ‘Okay! Time to work!’ It was such a gruelling experience, and I walked away from it thinking, ‘Okay, I’m never going to make another orchestral record again.’” [source]
Scrapped lyrics graveyard
When you were young, you kept a box of writing by your bed You wrote a one-act play Politics are hidden in The way you treat the people on the payroll Singing to a stranger ’bout the Left Never put food on his table Father was a poet, well-paid He goes unmentioned in the lectures Paid by the State to keep his mouth shut His influence is left to conjecture Like Bob Dylan’s Like Bob Dylan’s Like Bob Dylan’s ghost-writer Man is bad and man is a burden But so stackable! Arrow in the side, what’s a boy a to do? Hear the hero’s anguished cry What. Is a boy. To. Do? I fell in love with the piano teacher’s daughter And her brusque interpretation of Schumann Listening to Aufschwung til my lesson began Listening to Aufschwung til my lesson began My fingers linked to make a step We hopped the gate and crossed ourselves I stumbled on a marker and he Picked me up and dusted off He drove me forward with a light touch in the small of my back He knows when to touch me in public Faith sets the day afire Faith sets the day afire Get a bucket of water Hey, Catalano. Don’t talk to that guy with the notebook. A man beckons me out the window. Didn’t we once have a cat? Give me your hand I’m an excellent sherpa. How do I feel? You don’t want to know. I want you to know, but I don’t want to tell you. I’m closing my eyes and sending you vibes: “A man says ‘No’, but he means ‘Get lost.’” Can you give me a leg up? Get lost. Flickering like an oil lamp, a stranger at the foot of the bed. The colour of space, the colour of dread, oh. The Malcolm I remember Would never leave a woman to drown. An elegant bachelor, a servant to the crown. Just a small glance as you wrapped up my pork pie. But I knew you glimpsed it within me: my heavy heart. The son of a piano met the daughter of a contrabassoon. The bitch is hungry And hunger’s a hell of a drug. How often do you shave? Once a day? Twice a week? Not a fan of the high life. But you’ll never see me working the soil. Some of my best friends are trust funds And some are worse than others They get down, so down, cause the press can be cruel Then, an endless duel Between the Self and the Other “I am rather overrated,” “My statement will be seen as seminal.” Meanwhile, some of my friends are single mothers Did you see the face of the water-carrier? I had her in the night. She warmed the water and squeezed the sponge over She is ten years older. Your money’s no good here Your materials will never prevail Our hero is hardened And steeped in the salt of the earth A hist’ry of prophetry’s a history of low birth The man is depressed He was flayed in the weekly press Oh graduates, graduates Sweat is running down my back To the crack of my arse I terraform my arse I terraform my arse Nature is a con-woman, nature is a fraud Nature took me by the hand and showed me pretty things The river won’t refuse a man, The ocean won’t say no. Oscillate, I oscillate, and frequency increase The river is a talker and the woods are alive, The crew and I don’t entirely understand each other. And I’m too preoccupied to have a drink with them. Thanksgiving begins with flint and tinder. There are some mornings I wish I was Oe. Trying to teach the salmon How to swim the other way. These statements are dainty. They say, “I love to pussyfoot, I won’t look you in the eye.” Here is the thrust of it: I will seek out my own satisfaction. Laid in the rowboat Started to shiver The shirt unbuttons Off comes the bandage The tendons tender But I can manage Over the ocean, our things will travel. Maximalism Is your distortion Layer upon layer Of self-absorption Nice head of hair on those legs. You’ve a good head for figures. All at once, That expression is familiar. I saw it on the face of... Well, you got a familiar face. Here, let me set up the stage. I’d brought about the downfall of many a demi-mage. I killed innocents, too.