At the tail end of last year, Canadian musician Owen Pallett issued a brief statement that he would be “voluntarily retiring” his stage name. For the previous five years, the songwriter and violin virtuoso had been producing ornate orchestral pop under the moniker Final Fantasy, a reference to the Japanese role-playing game series that had occupied a sizable chunk of his adolescence. Not coincidentally, the announcement came as he was on the verge of getting his first proper album release here in Japan.
“Heartland,” Pallett’s third record to date but the first under his own name, is the most fully realized offering yet from a songwriter whose compositional verve is matched only by the barminess of his concepts. 2006’s “He Poos Clouds,” which won the inaugural Polaris Music Prize in Canada, was loosely based around the schools of magic in “Dungeons & Dragons.” Its 2010 followup is set on an imaginary planet called Spectrum, where a young farmer named Lewis rebels against his creator-god, who just happens to be called Owen.