Owen Pallett fansite

Owen Pallett → In Conflict

In Conflict is Owen Pallett’s fourth album, released May 26 (May 27 in Canada and USA, May 21 in Japan) on Secret City Records (Canada) and Domino Records (everywhere except Canada). Recorded in 2013, the release was delayed due to Owen touring with Arcade Fire.

In Conflict differs from Owen’s previous albums significantly in the following ways: It is not a concept album, the lyrics aren’t set in a fictional context, and the sound has more synths and percussion.

There are music videos for “The Riverbed” and “Song for Five & Six”, and a lyric video for “On a Path”. The album trailer embedded above is a clip of “Infernal Fantasy”. The “→” tracks are short instrumental interludes.


The lyrical process, as with Heartland, was to drink a lot of coffee every morning, write as many lines as possible and combine them, discarding a lot. Owen tried writing both fictional lyrics and autobiographical lyrics, the latter a new undertaking influenced by John Darnielle. The initial attempts were not good, but Owen found that the theme of a changing self arose: The way he was writing about his crazy old self did not express what he believes now. [source] The end result is a collection of songs that deal with issues experienced by Owen or people he knows, including mental illness, childlessness, gender identity, alcoholism, age-disparity relationships, and growing out of a city. The title refers to the mental states of oneself being in conflict with each other. [source]

Owen rejects labels in the vein of confessional / cathartic / self-help / autobiographical / personal for the album because they get used negatively to otherize female songwriters like Tori Amos and Lisa Germano, removing their agency. He has stated in multiple interviews that he wrote In Conflict very deliberately, with specific intentions; it was not an automatic outpouring of words from his past states of mind. [source]

Owen’s openness to communicate directly with us (his listeners) as opposed to merely preaching or whining about his own problems is especially shown by the fact that he wrote his phone number into the lyrics, for us to call him.


“All the melodies on this record, on many of the instrumental breaks, they feature the wrongest note. While writing the song, I’ll identify what note in the chromatic scale would be the wrongest note to add to the melody, and then I’ll stick it in there somehow.” [source]

Sequencing and artwork

30 original demos were cut down to 20 and then 11–14 for the final tracklist. The earliest songs debuted in live shows in 2011. While having difficulty sequencing the tracklist, Owen decided to have the different formats end differently to highlight the disjointedness. The black phosphorus paint blobs which obstruct the lyrics on the album artwork serve to further the point; there are four blob shapes in total for the album formats. The font used is called Fugue.


WIGLP304 (Domino)
SCR036LP (Secret City)

Side A

  1. I Am Not Afraid
  2. In Conflict
  3. On a Path
  4. Song for Five & Six
  5. The Secret Seven

Side B

  1. Chorale
  2. The Passions
  3. The Sky Behind the Flag
  4. The Riverbed
  5. Infernal Fantasy

Limited edition double LP

WIGLP304X (Domino)
SCR0362LP (Secret City)

Disc 1, Side A

  1. I Am Not Afraid
  2. In Conflict
  3. On a Path

Disc 1, Side B

  1. Song for Five & Six
  2. The Secret Seven
  3. Chorale

Disc 2, Side A

  1. The Passions
  2. The Sky Behind the Flag
  3. The Riverbed

Disc 2, Side B

  1. Infernal Fantasy
  2. Soldier’s Rock
  3. Bridle & Bit

CD / Digital

WIGCD304 (Domino, CD)
WIG304D (Domino, digital)
SCR036CD (Secret City)

  1. I Am Not Afraid
  2. In Conflict
  3. On a Path
  4. Song for Five & Six
  5. The Secret Seven
  6. Chorale
  7. The Passions
  8. The Sky Behind the Flag
  9. The Riverbed
  10. Infernal Fantasy
  11. Soldier’s Rock

Japanese CD


  1. I Am Not Afraid
  2. In Conflict
  3. On a Path
  4. Song for Five & Six
  5. The Secret Seven
  6. Chorale
  7. The Passions
  8. The Sky Behind the Flag
  9. The Riverbed
  10. Infernal Fantasy
  11. Soldier’s Rock
  12. I Am Not Afraid” (Piano Ballad Version)
  13. The Secret Seven” (Piano Ballad Version)

Scrapped lyrics graveyard

Owen posted these scrapped lyrics on the forum, like he did for Heartland.


I have not made friends with death
I have not made death my friend
Take that skull off your face
Better to make friends with your pain


The only activity
That puts my unconscious
And conscious mind in unity
Is watching a film
Or watching the TV
With a bottle of Irish whiskey.
C’est vous contre nous
It is us against me.


Steps turn to walking
Words into meaning
Ingredients to dinner
All the things we’re learning
Even conversation
Becomes second-nature
While my active mind looks westward
Looks around the room for answers


I look over
This man in the corner
Stronger than an iron
As he leans into
Make his rejoinder
A kind of a pointer
How can the guy resist you?
Where does he find the strength to?


What a bottle can do to a teen
We are flat on the ground and I am laughing
Pulling up clumps of grass as we notice our dates have gone missing

Somewhere in a golden field
A yellow calf born to a yellow cow
But here there is no miracle
How do you, how do you like me now?


I can’t rock, I can’t rock
But I have friends who rock.
I have photos of my nieces and nephews.


I lost the game
Through Carolinas North and South
The trip is a trickle
Legs skinny and white, don’t wanna fight
Just want to shut my mouth shut it round you
You just lost the game
Sent out for a shrink, some take-away therapy
And although he didn’t show, the call gave me clarity
Or at least transparency; and I said
I am no longer beginning
And I haven’t lost the feeling
But I’ve lost the game

I need to be led
I need to be easily led


As the sun rose up on Georgetown
I biked home an empty shell
Because a heart can be measured
And I’d shaved off all its meat

Sometimes I try to get the tears out
Not this time. Couldn’t hold them back.
They flowed all the way from Georgetown
Back to the squat where I stayed

And I thought of Emily Dickinson
With hyacinths ‘round her feet:
That which never comes again
Is what makes our lives sweet.

I disagree, I disagree
The sun has set on me.
Oh my God, I disagree, I disagree.

There was heartache and self-abuse
As the moon rose I’d make an excuse
To get drunk, because I’m good
‘Cause I do good, sometimes, sometimes.

But that time that I spent squatting by your side
I’d never get back
I feel the lack of your presence
And I wonder where you are.

And you asked, Are you confident?
Do you have some confidence in me?

I disagree, I disagree
The sun has set on me
Oh my God, I disagree,
I disagree.


The furnished basement, the way the sun shines through the living room window.
The kids steal our beans and broccoli
And relieve themselves on the new shoots.

When you told me we were moving I couldn’t believe it
Cause I was born in this house, and most days I thought I’d die
In it too

I have a tiny arm, I am seven years old
I put it ‘round the shoulders of my mother
I have a tiny arm, I am seven years old
I put it ‘round the shoulders of my mother

Scott comes by on a scooter and Shaun is close behind
Their parents don’t believe in discipline
Or the Unconscious Mind.

They shake their fists and scream obscenities
That surprise even themselves
I feel embarrassed as you give them a lukewarm hell

And I say “Only two more weeks”
And I plant a kiss upon your cheek


When I die my death will be a triumph
Bleeding my life blood upon the earth
Reliving my life from scene to awesome scene
Brigham gives the orders to the Danites
To tear the Gentiles limb from limb from limb
When I die I will be with my family
And Joseph, and Brigham and Him
We’ll all spot each other’s press-ups at the gym.

Remember the Adventure executable
We’re starting to forget to pull our punches
I proposed, he said OK
And our marriage was gay
Now we beat each other senseless over nothing


I dream of starships and the void


Momma left me on my own so I would learn my place
Left me at the starting line
See me close the gap at a sprinter’s pace
I am short for my temper, I am short for my age

Two days running with a troop of semi-pros
This must be the place
Terry had to quit, and we run past it
Into the arms of Canadia
Macerater of time
Baby, you are crazy, you can really kill a man
You can drive a man to things he can’t believe
I quit my job
I took my leave


Five or six pages of verse
The worst

It was the worst time of year
Sending coins
From my fingers to my loins calling you trans-Atlantic

The sticks smashhhh on the flatbed
Boys tour the town, victorious in war
The sticks smashhhh on the flatbed
Boys on the ball.

And me, with five or six pages
Written for a glorious posthumous stage
Dated and corrected between sessions
In the john

And I wrote you that I missed you
But it came out something cosmic
And I wrote you that I missed you
But I didn’t miss you

No, I was wondering
If the men who came for Escobar would ever come for me
I was wondering if the men who came for Escobar
Would come for me


What a haircut means to a teen!
Fresh, freshly shaven and clean
I could have anyone in the room
At least I thought I could

What a bottle means to a teen!
Our dates have gone missing
Not missing, because we knew
Where they were and what they do

And with something like pride
I’m on your hood, shouting
How do you like me now?
How do you like me now?


Charity think no evil
Charity never faileth
And I hope that you paid for this song

I played on the street corner, made as much as a policewoman
Did in a day
Nine times out of ten
The passers-by mimed a search for a coin
A glance and then hurried away.

Charity thinks no evil
Charity never faileth
And I hope that you pay for this song

A lonely Moroccan touched me while I played
I called the police, later in the day
The constable asked me to show her where
And if my mother knew that I was there
And whatever did she do for a living?

Charity thinks no evil
Charity never faileth
And I hope that you pay for this song


The booze has made me bolder but no more self-assured
Your idea of “chubby” is far removed from the adult notion of the word


There is no world but this one

A man doesn’t know he’s guilty
Until he’s forgiven

Don’t come around looking for someone to string along
We are miles ahead, miles ahead
If you want a hangman, I’ll hang out with you
If you want a victim, I will swim with you

I have an odd notion of subversion
I leave my violin unattended in cafes
Only to retrieve it later
Disappointed in my relief


“I don’t wanna die,” she said
Calm as the water that bathed her
The sword of the dark crusader
Held above her covered head
Only seven years before she started in on doing the heroin
Sober and born-again Christians, we got lost in the fields instead


Surrounded by an army of the sweetest
Air cadets and country breezes
I missed the boat when I was young
And spent my time in the arms of anyone
But now my exoskeleton has
Grown bigger, better, and my pockets have
Filled up with a government loan
I can buy you drinks, I can take you home

But all I ever had in mind
Was an arm around my shoulder
And for an arm around my shoulder
I shoulda had a son

With a brand new Brazilian bauble
And jeans that belong on a model
I stumbled into a perfect hall
For doing drugs in a bathroom stall
And we talked about the drugs and we
Decided to abstain but still we
Locked ourselves inside and then
My fingers locked behind your head and
You hooked your pinkies on my jeans and
I’m twenty-eight and you’re nineteen and
The innocent fun that was soon to be
Will start to feel like currency and
We’re trying to get it on in bed, you’ve
Taken me home, you’re giving me head, you’ve
Put on “The Queen Is Dead”
But I just want to talk instead

Cause all I ever had in mind
Was an arm around my shoulder
And for an arm around my shoulder
I shoulda had a son


Never miss a moment to dote upon a baby
Or a puppy I’d never let into my home
I only want to see my solitude re-affirmed
And the fear that our love will make all things as one


Hand upon the small of my back and
I move easily
You don’t need to ask
We stand peacefully
Love your rival and cradle my hand
Love your rival

But days in the park turned to nights spent
In the hospital
The hell did you mean when you said we were
Kill your idols; live to see them dead
Kill your idols


Steven don’t you feel you’re on the wrong side of the law
I said Steven don’t you feel you’re on the wrong side of Godard


Your mother rushes in to assure us
That your family tree was blessed with
A hundred-year old title and a claim
Just as I’m taking aim


A filtered photograph
Of a new tattoo 
Of a working title


Lay down your arms
Step upward, step forward
Those skinny arms were meant to be wrapped
Around someone

Together we will rule the world
Or at least the household
It has happened to thousands of others
Why shouldn’t it happen for us


It’s hard to point the kid in the right direction
No one ever benefits from correction
And it is hard to tell what is insight and what is reflection
It’s hard to point the kid in the right direction

Let’s get one thing straight
Money was made by men
Money was made for men
To get what they want

We’re saving our money
To pay people to have sex with us
When we’re too old to do it any other way
A trick of the light on the face of your daughter and/or your son

Time turns all men into pies


We blew into London like a white tornado
Trouble with wings
Pasting boys across the kingdom
We shout and we sing

The table beneath a feast
The world beyond the ocean to the East
The sky behind a flag


Even as a child he remembered his own childhood
Seeing his blond hair tumble to the floor
A dusty union
And his neck feels unprotected
He puts his hat back on

“Is anything wrong” I ask I don’t like to see him moody
Gingerly toying with a newborn ear “No I’m fine”

The enemy was held by one river
We had a plan to get out of Milton at least as far as Guelph
For the summer
But he’d already spent every cent
Of the money we needed
When I asked him he shifted the hat over his face

“What” I asked and he said
“Sometimes spending feels better than saving”
I watched him and waited, a dusty union, I watched him.


Brother Anger + Brother Cool
Sipping by the swimming pool
Take each other in embrace
Through your neurons you can trace
The loop of feedback positive
Garroting your will to give

Sister Faith and Sister Chance
Godspeed to your delusions of romance
Your monument to unity
Falls apart in front of thee
20, 20 goto 10
Can you love your fellow man?