While the puritan in all of us would like to have the capacity to at least purport to a sense of objectivity about the merits of cultural artefacts, the actuality is thus: nothing exists in a vacuum, nothing is without predecessors, nothing is what it is without the complex mass of preconceptions and schematic ideals that inexorably alter our relationship to anything.
Owen Pallett’s 2010 masterpiece ‘Heartland’ was a record so good that the listener succumbed to it’s concept - the trails and travails of a hyperviolent farmer named Lewis and the oppression he faced in the guise of the benevelonetly omniscient narrator Owen - and fell in love with its immaculately arranged suite of orchestrally underpinned songs that sounded simultaneously timeless and out of time, each track stuffed with meltingly gorgeous motifs and the kind of melodies most songwriters would kill for. ‘In Conflict’ isn’t quite there: Pallett still sings like a choirboy, still crafts songs that nearly burst with swooping strings and balletic brass, still displays a penchant for lyrics that teeter on the edge of embarassing but remain firmly stuck in the memory banks. It’s an undeniably strong album, in which existing fans will find much to love. It just isn’t quite ‘Heartland’.