Dallas was good to Owen Pallett when he was an opening act. Now he returns a headliner
With Snowblink at Granada Theater, 3
524 Greenville Ave. April 29 at 8 p.m.
Don’t tell Owen Pallett how he should organize his album tracks. There’s an art to it, he’ll say — a stronger song should open and the quirkier song should follow. That’s his formula.
"If I put a different song, it might have made the tracks listing better, but ‘Midnight Directives’ was the perfect opener. I did have a way to put the songs together," he says. "Bjork is the best. She consistently leads with a strong song but the second is always the weirdest."
Incidentally, "Keep the Dog Quiet" is the second track on his newest CD, Heartland, and by its dramatic buildup with quirky Danny Elfman touches, it’s easy to see Pallett’s philosophy in action.
Maybe he’s just overthinking, but Pallett gives a lot of thought to a lot of things. In the span of half an hour, he chats up Canada’s reign of quality LGBT musicians ("It’s kinda nutty"), what "gay music" means ("sexuality is a touchy subject I hope to avoid") and his last performance in Dallas ("I had my best show"). He’s verbose and complex without being pompous — as is his music. When his tour stops in Dallas on Thursday, it could be a fascinating performance.
He won’t, however, talk about his classical music training.
"I’ve decided not to answer about my classical background without suggesting some level of derivative to academic institution, or unwittingly coming across as a snob," he says. "To some, it’ll sound like I’m an elitist douchebag but honestly, I don’t think about it. There is just as much bad music out there with incredible academic music pedigrees behind it [as not]."
Pallett melds violins with vocals, minus overt classical tendencies. Instead, songs from Heartland range from plucky to dreamy to straightforward indie pop.
Musically, he’s this odd-but-workable blend of Panic at the Disco and Regina Spektor, though he’d probably describe his sound as more in the vein of Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno, with a modernist approach.
"I would never describe it as experimental but they gave me this compositional epiphany that every song needs to feel like it’s discovered," he says. "I really hope to derive some of that in my compositional process."
Perhaps like many young gay teens, Pallett was moved by the music of fellow Canadian Celine Dion. And it all happened down a snowy ski hill in France.
"I was 15. There was a torch light parade with skiers but they weren’t able to get downhill," he says. "A song was playing while they skied down but to fill time, they played Celine Dion’s ‘The Power of Love.’ It was kinda bizarre for me as Canadian but so incredibly moving."
The last time Pallett played Dallas, he opened for the Arcade Fire. The sold-out show put Pallett on the spot to perform quicker than he planned, and turned out to be his best gig.
"We did a few songs and sold a hundred CDs. It was like a miracle and my perfect set length," he says.
Now he has graduated to headliner, and while he admits he doesn’t know what the audience should expect, he knows what he’s got to offer.
"I’m doing a longer set: An hour and 15 minutes. I get tricky with looped violin. I put shows together to maintain same medium as long as possible and not lose the plot. But the show is what it is. I just want to keep it off the cuff and entertaining," he says.
Somehow, that’s not too hard to imagine.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 16, 2010.