Spectrum, 14th Century
When he’s not giving Arcade Fire’s “Crown of Love” a cufflinks-and-pearls formality courtesy of his classical-music superfluities, Owen Pallett likes to be playful. Grinning, pinch-your-nose playful. On the EP Spectrum, 14th Century, Pallett—who spins solo records under the moniker Final Fantasy—crafts baroque pop of an air-tight, chimerical variety. Unlike 2006’s He Poos Clouds, which often had its energy monopolized by Pallett’s violin chops, Spectrum finds the Toronto songwriter using his favorite instrument as the EP’s polished spine. On “The Butcher,” the violin saws back and forth underneath snare rolls and trumpet from Beirut’s Zach Condon, burning a path for the song’s Four Horsemen imagery (“Doomsday, the end of the century / In accord with prophecy”). It’s a rare moment of weight; Pallett is more comfortable with inducing a smile: Hear the steel drums and timpani in “Blue Imelda,” or the wood block-sounding percussion in “Cockatrice.” Spectrum exudes new-toy playfulness but is never overly enthusiastic. With this newfound flair for more nuanced songwriting comes an awareness of the gravity of being in control.