Owen Pallett thinks his name has too much of a Welsh ring to it. So, with a healthy dose of melodrama, ghosts, fantasy and romance rife throughout his first full-length Has A Good Home, the choice to record under the moniker Final Fantasy doesn't seem so farfetched after all. Live, Pallett creates alarmingly beautiful songs with a violin fed through a looping pedal, his vocals veering from polite croon to destabilising holler. Has A Good Home retains the prettiness but is a comparatively downbeat journey which doesn't quite match the breathtaking live experience.
Despite the initial change in pace, the album still demonstrates Pallett's superb grasp of the violin. For a single string instrument to take centre stage, as opposed to a mere flourish or adornment of a greater composition, it needs depth and commanding presence to fill the space. Patrick Wolf litters his with glitch beats and folklore whilst Andrew Bird draws from gypsy folk and swing. Final Fantasy's particular speciality is what Pallett modestly describes as 'faggish pretentiousness' - roughly translated into opulence, angst and curiously Olde English melodies. Stuttering electronics bubble underneath the giddy, freewheeling 'This Is The Dream Of Win & Regine' which climaxes to an almighty unexpected scream worthy of Xiu Xiu's delivery ("I tried/And tried/And tried/And tried/And tried/And tried/To keep the crowds AWAY!"). Similar catharsis runs through the brilliantly broken tango of 'Please Please Please', a suitably tortured sounding male chorus chanting the title beneath Owen's angular strings.
There's a fawning politeness which runs alongside Has A Good Home's more urgent moments, too. 'Took You Two Years To Win My Heart' is reflective and personal ("They say heartbreak is good for the skin/But all that it's helped is my drinking") and gradually builds and swells to a gossamer construction of violin parts, making it one of tracks most reminiscent of the live show. 'Furniture' is similarly honest, if a little more tongue-in-cheek ("My father had a dozen wives and a child by every one/I am from about number five/So don't expect me to stay with anyone") but benefits from a more poppy lilt and breezy drums. Perhaps the most accessible song on display though is the fantasy fiction fan's dream 'The CN Tower Belongs To The Dead' which finds the dead of Toronto rising from their graves to climb to the top of the tower and watch their loved ones. Keyboards bound around with glockenspiel notes and swelling string lines, echoing the sound of former collaborator The Hidden Cameras.
'Pretty' is an annoyingly derogatory word but, for most of Has A Good Home, it's apt. The only problems arise with tracks that seem to deal more in prettiness than substance, which feel more like sketches of songs than their more developed neighbours. 'Library' seems to get caught up in its own atmospherics and fails to find a structure whilst non-sequiturs like 'Learn To Keep Your Mouth Shut, Owen Pallet' and a song named only on the tracklist as the symbol for a return space, seem to break up the flow of what would otherwise be a fluid collection of songs. Despite the shortcomings though, Has A Good Home is effortlessly beautiful and charismatic record by a clearly prolific and inventive musician, and certainly enough to rid Pallett of the tag "That guy who arranged the strings for Funeral."
7Jesus Chigley's Score