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.
SCR036LP (Secret City)
Limited edition double LP
SCR0362LP (Secret City)
Disc 1, Side A
Disc 1, Side B
Disc 2, Side A
Disc 2, Side B
CD / Digital
WIGCD304 (Domino, CD)
WIG304D (Domino, digital)
SCR036CD (Secret City)
Scrapped lyrics graveyard
1 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 2 Unfortunately, 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. 3 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 4 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? 5 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? 6 I can’t rock, I can’t rock But I have friends who rock. I have photos of my nieces and nephews. 7 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 8 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. 9 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 10 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 11 I dream of starships and the void 12 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 13 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 Inauthentic 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 14 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? 15 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 16 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 17 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 18 “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 19 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 20 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 21 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 Indivisible Kill your idols; live to see them dead Kill your idols 22 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 23 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 24 A filtered photograph Of a new tattoo Of a working title 25 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 26 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 27 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 28 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. 29 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?