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Owen Pallett

Owen Pallett
Background information
Birth name Michael James Owen Pallett
Born (1979-09-07) September 7, 1979
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Genres Indie pop, classical, baroque pop, art rock, experimental music
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, arranger
Instruments Violin, viola, vocals, piano, harpsichord, synthesizer, guitar, bass
Labels Blocks Recording Club
Domino Records
Associated acts Final Fantasy
Les Mouches
Enter the Haggis
Arcade Fire
Notable instruments
Violin, ARP 2600

Michael James Owen Pallett (born September 7, 1979) is a Canadian composer, violinist, keyboardist, and vocalist, who performs solo as Owen Pallett or, before 2010, under the name Final Fantasy. As Final Fantasy, he won the 2006 Polaris Music Prize for the album He Poos Clouds.[1]

From the age of 3, Pallett studied classical violin, and composed his first piece at age 13. A notable early composition includes some of the music for the game Traffic Department 2192; he moved on to scoring films, to composing two operas while in university. Apart from the indie music scene, he has had commissions from the Barbican, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Ballet of Canada, Bang on a Can, Ecstatic Music Festival, the Vancouver CBC Orchestra, and Fine Young Classicals.

On his Final Fantasy releases, Pallett has collaborated with Leon Taheny, who is credited as drummer and engineer. Following the release of Heartland, Pallett has toured with guitarist/percussionist Thomas Gill[2] and more recently with his former collaborators in Les Mouches, Rob Gordon and Matt Smith.[3][4]

Pallett has been noted for his live performances, wherein he plays the violin into a loop pedal. Pallett uses Max/MSP and SooperLooper to do multi-phonic looping, which sends his violin signal to amplifiers across the stage.[5]

In January 2014, Pallett and William Butler were nominated for Best Original Score at the 86th Academy Awards for their work on Her.


  • Career 1
    • Solo work 1.1
    • Other contributions 1.2
  • Personal life 2
  • Discography 3
    • With Les Mouches 3.1
    • Solo work 3.2
      • Studio albums 3.2.1
      • EPs 3.2.2
      • Singles 3.2.3
      • Various songs 3.2.4
    • Other contributions 3.3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Solo work

The name Final Fantasy, under which Pallett recorded prior to the release of Heartland, was a tribute to the well-known video game series, although he said that it is not one of his top twenty favorite games.[6]

Final Fantasy performing in 2005.

Pallett's debut album, Has a Good Home, was released on February 12, 2005, by the Blocks Recording Club, a cooperative, Toronto-based record label of which he is a founding member. "An Arrow in the Side of Final Fantasy" borrows the music from the Space Zone's final level in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. "Adventure.exe" from this album was used in a series of 2006 commercials by Orange in the United Kingdom.[7] Pallett did not intend to sell the song for this purpose, but its use was authorized due to an alleged miscommunication with his record label, Tomlab. All of Pallett's income from this use is donated to Doctors Without Borders.

Pallett's second album, He Poos Clouds, was released in June 2006, though the video,[8] directed by Jesse Ewles, was released on March 1, 2006. The album consists entirely of string quartet arrangements. Eight of the ten songs are about each of the schools of magic as described in the rules to the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. The album was named winner of the 2006 Polaris Music Prize. Uncomfortable with receiving a prize sponsored by a mobile phone conglomerate, Pallett gave the money away to bands he liked who needed financial assistance.

On November 11, 2006, Pallett posted to a fan forum to announce a new album, tentatively titled Heartland. Subsequently on July 9, 2007 on the CBC Radio One program Q, Pallett said that the album would be released no earlier than mid 2008. In the same interview he confirmed that it would be titled Heartland, and that it was an album about nothingness.

In 2007, the song "This Is The Dream of Win & Regine" was used in a commercial for Take-Away Show acoustic video session shot by Vincent Moon.

In October 2007 Final Fantasy released a vinyl 7" on Tomlab's Alphabet Single series ( The Letter "X" ). The two tracks on "X", recorded in Montreal with Zach Condon, of the band Beirut; predate the album He Poos Clouds. The tracks – "Hey Dad" and "What Do You Think Will Happen Next?" are both played regularly at live shows. The song "Hey Dad" contains a melody borrowed from the Nintendo video game "Super Mario Bros. 3"; specifically it is the music from the "Coin Heaven" bonus/hidden stages. Also, the song is quite similar in melody, lyrics and tone to another of Pallett's songs – "→".

In March 2008, Owen Pallett under the alias Final Fantasy, collaborated with Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste on a cover of Björk's "Possibly Maybe" as part of Stereogum's tribute to Björk's album, Post.[9]

In Fall 2008, Pallett released two EPs. The first one, Spectrum, 14th Century, was a collaboration with Beirut. The second EP, Plays To Please, found Pallett paying homage to fellow Torontonian Alex Lukashevsky, his group Deep Dark United, and his unique personality. On it, six Lukashevsky originals were reconfigured for a 35-piece big band, the Toronto-based St. Kitts Orchestra (which includes Drumheller's Nick Fraser, Paul Mathew of the Hidden Cameras, and a whistling Andrew Bird, among others).[10]

On December 18, 2009, Pallett announced "I am voluntarily retiring my band name" and that Heartland "will be issued under my own name, Owen Pallett" to "definitively distinguish my music from Square Enix's games".[11] The album was released on Domino Records on January 12, 2010. It was mixed by New York producer Rusty Santos.[12] Also he played Primavera Sound Festival 2010.[13] In August 2010, Pallett announced the release of a four track EP entitled A Swedish Love Story on September 28 via Domino.

On November 12, 2012, Pallett tweeted that he had been working on a new album called In Conflict.[14] For several personal reasons, Pallett delayed the intended fall 2013 release date for his fourth full-length album, ultimately released May 27, 2014.[15][16]

Other contributions

Pallett playing live in Brussels, 2010-03-23.

Pallett's previous projects included a 3-piece Toronto-based band, Les Mouches, now defunct. He also played fiddle for a short time with the Celtic rock band Enter the Haggis. He was once the violinist of another Toronto band called Picastro, and briefly played keyboard in SS Cardiacs (with Leon Taheny, Jessie Stein and Michael Small in 2005). Pallett has also recorded and toured with Jim Guthrie, The Hidden Cameras, Royal City, The Vinyl Cafe, Gentleman Reg, and Arcade Fire (he co-wrote the strings arrangement for their albums Funeral and Neon Bible).[17] One of his songs, "This Is the Dream of Win & Regine", was inspired by the principal members of the latter group, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne,[17] and is a play on a Dntel song called, "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan."

Pallett contributed remixes for the bands Stars, Grizzly Bear and Death from Above 1979. He also wrote string arrangements for the Canadian bands Immaculate Machine, on their 2007 album, Fables, and Fucked Up, on their 2006 album Hidden World. He also wrote the string arrangements for the Beirut album The Flying Club Cup, as well as provided vocals for the track "Cliquot".[18] Most recently, he provided orchestration for the side project of Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and former Rascals frontman Miles Kane, as The Last Shadow Puppets, entitled The Age of the Understatement. Pallett also conducted the London Metropolitan Orchestra in the recording of this project.

In June 2009 at Luminato, Toronto's annual festival of arts and creativity, Pallett provided part of the live soundtrack for the outdoor screening (at Yonge-Dundas Square) of the 1919 silent German horror film Tales of the Uncanny (Unheimliche Geschichten), alongside Canadian instrumental band Do Make Say Think and electronica music artist Robert Lippok from Berlin, Germany.

On October 17, Pallett posted on his Twitter page that he had just completed "10 days on the best album I've ever had the pleasure of working on".[19] This was ten days after a previous comment suggesting he was in the studio with Arcade Fire,[20] who were working on their 2010 album The Suburbs at the time. It later received a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.[21]

In 2009, Pallett worked with Win Butler and Régine Chassagne on the score for Richard Kelly's film The Box.[22] Pallett was also initially set to score Rabbit Hole, a film by John Cameron Mitchell,[23] but in the end the film was scored by Anton Sanko. In late 2010, Pallett was named as composer for T Magazine's "Fourteen Actors Acting" project; he received, alongside the producers of that series, an Emmy Award for "New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming: Arts, Lifestyle and Culture".[24]

Pallett collaborated with John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats in 2012 when several songs from the Transcendental Youth album were performed in concert with the all-female vocal quartet Anonymous 4 and featured Pallett's arrangements for piano, guitar and voices.[25]

Pallett scored the 2013 film The Wait directed by M Blash.[26]

Personal life

Pallett was born in Mississauga, Ontario. He received an Honours Bachelor of Music for Composition from the University of Toronto in 2002.[27]

Pallett believes his work is implicitly influenced by his sexuality, saying, "As far as whether the music I make is gay or queer, yeah, it comes from the fact that I'm gay, but that doesn't mean I'm making music about it."[28]

Patrick Borjal, Pallett's boyfriend, began working as his manager in 2006, and formed the management company Boyfriend Management.[29]

In 2014, Pallett penned an open letter weighing in on the Jian Ghomeshi abuse scandal.[30]

Pallett's uncle, actor Jim Pallett, starred in the music video for the 2014 single The Riverbed.


With Les Mouches

Solo work

Studio albums



Various songs

Other contributions

Year Artist Album Description
2002 Jim Guthrie Morning Noon Night
2003 Jim Guthrie Now, More Than Ever violins, viola, string arrangements
The Hidden Cameras The Smell of Our Own violin, viola
2004 The Hidden Cameras The Arms of His 'Ill' viola on "Builds the Bone"
The Hidden Cameras Mississauga Goddam violin, piano, celeste
Arcade Fire Funeral violin, string arrangements
Gentleman Reg Darby & Joan string arrangements
Dan Goldman Through a Revolution
Royal City Little Heart's Ease
Death from Above 1979 Romance Bloody Romance: Remixes & B-Sides violin on "Black History Month"
2005 Picastro Metal Cares viola
Grizzly Bear Horn of Plenty "Don't Ask" – Remix
2006 Grizzly Bear Yellow House string arrangements
Fucked Up Hidden World string arrangements
2007 Arcade Fire Neon Bible orchestral arrangements, violin
C'mon Bottled Lightning (of an All Time High) string arrangements
Great Lake Swimmers Ongiara string arrangements
Beirut The Flying Club Cup violin, organ, vocals on "Cliquot", string arrangements
Immaculate Machine Immaculate Machine's Fables violin
Montag Going Places vocals on "Softness, I Forgot Your Name"
Picastro Whore Luck piano on "Hortur", violin and organ on "All Erase"
Holy Fuck LP violin on "Lovely Allen"[34]
Stars Do You Trust Your Friends? "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" – Remix
The Phonemes There's Something We've Been Meaning to Tell You back-up singing on "Pain Perdu", violin and piano on "Kim Rogers", guitar on "Pine Needles"
2008 Luxury Pond Luxury Pond string quartet arrangements
The Last Shadow Puppets The Age of the Understatement arranged and conducted orchestrations
2009 The Rumble Strips Welcome to the Walk Alone violin, string arrangements
Pet Shop Boys Yes orchestral arrangements
The Mountain Goats The Life of the World to Come violin, string arrangements
Mika The Boy Who Knew Too Much violin on "Rain"
2010 Arcade Fire The Suburbs String arrangements
Gigi Maintenant vocals on "I'll Quit"
Diamond Rings "Something Else" single piano, string arrangements on "Gentleman Who Fell"[35]
Duran Duran All You Need Is Now string arrangements, conductor on "The Man Who Stole a Leopard"
2011 The Luyas Too Beautiful to Work strings and string arrangements
Alex Turner Submarine soundtrack string arrangements on "Piledriver Waltz"
The National "Exile Vilify" single strings
Jim Guthrie Sword & Sworcery LP: The Ballad of the Space Babies violin on "The Cloud"
R.E.M. Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982–2011 orchestral arrangements on "We All Go Back to Where We Belong" and "Hallelujah"
Snow Patrol Fallen Empires orchestral arrangements, conductor
2012 Linkin Park Living Things strings on "I'll Be Gone"
Lindstrøm De Javu/No Release 12" "No Release" – Remix (feat. Steve Kado)
Titus Andronicus Local Business violin
Taylor Swift Red orchestral arrangements, conductor on "The Last Time"
Robbie Williams Take the Crown orchestral arrangements on "Candy", "Different" and "Into the Silence"
Slim Twig A Hound at the Hem string arrangements
2013 The National Trouble Will Find Me strings on "I Need My Girl"
David Lang Death Speaks violin[36]
Light Fires Face vocals on "Dependent"
Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action strings & string arrangement on "Stand on the Horizon"
Arcade Fire Reflektor strings & string arrangement
2014 Marram Sun Choir vocals on "With Us Instead"[37]
Sarah Neufeld Black Ground EP arrangement on "Breathing Black Ground (Orchestral Version)"[38]
Foxes in Fiction Ontario Gothic violin[39]
Caribou Our Love violin, viola


  1. ^ "2006 Winners and Nominees". Polaris Music Prize. Retrieved April 26, 2013. 
  2. ^  
  3. ^ "A Call To Arms". April 13, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Twitter / Owen Pallett". Twitter. April 5, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  5. ^ Vdovin, Marsha (December 1, 2010). "An Interview with Owen Pallett". Retrieved January 29, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Q&A with Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy". You Ain't No Picasso. April 18, 2006. Retrieved April 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Orange Animals Big Idea 30-second – panther". YouTube. August 9, 2006. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  8. ^ He Poos Clouds video. 
  9. ^ "Enjoyed: A Tribute To Bjork's Post". Retrieved July 2, 2008. 
  10. ^ "New Final Fantasy – "The Butcher" & "Ultimatum" (Stereogum Premiere)". Stereogum. August 26, 2008. Retrieved October 7, 2009. 
  11. ^ "FINAL FANTASY NAME CHANGE TO OWEN PALLETT". Domino Records. December 18, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Heartland". Domino. Retrieved January 18, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Ola's Kool Kitchen on Radio 23 Owen Pallett Live Primavera 2010 : DJ Ola : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". March 10, 2001. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  14. ^ a b Alex Hudson (November 12, 2012). "'"Owen Pallett Preps "Non-Fictional" Album 'In Conflict. Exclaim!. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Hey Owen, any updates on the album progress?". SHZine. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  16. ^ "Owen Pallett Shares "Song for Five & Six" Video, Pushes Back New Album Release Date". Pitchfork. April 22, 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  17. ^ a b Deusner, Stephen M. (March 9, 2005). "Profile: Final Fantasy".  
  18. ^ Solarski, Matthew (June 21, 2007). "Beirut Announce Album Release Date, Tracklist, Tour".  
  19. ^ "Twitter / Owen Pallett". Twitter. October 17, 2009. Retrieved October 11, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Twitter / Owen Pallett". Twitter. October 7, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Past Winners Search". Retrieved May 21, 2014. 
  22. ^ Pattison, Louis (January 16, 2010). "From Arcade Fire to Mika, Owen Pallett is the industry's go-to guy for a lavish orchestral arrangement". (London). Retrieved February 11, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Owen Pallett says farewell to Final Fantasy". January 10, 2010. Retrieved March 17, 2011. 
  24. ^ "The Emmy Awards – Winners of The 32nd Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards". National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. September 26, 2011. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  25. ^ "John Darnielle to Unveil New Mountain Goats Project with Some Help from Owen Pallett". Exclaim!. November 16, 2011. Retrieved March 12, 2013. 
  26. ^ "The Wait". Visit Films. Retrieved March 12, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Experiments with Violin". University of Toronto Magazine. Summer 2006. Retrieved June 3, 2007. 
  28. ^ Liss, Sarah (June 23, 2005). "Final Fantasy".  
  29. ^ "Toronto musician embarks on cross-country tour".  
  30. ^ "Owen Pallett Says Jian Ghomeshi Beat 3 Women". Retrieved 2015-06-19. 
  31. ^ "News [October 4, 2013]". October 4, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Presents… Enjoyed: A Tribute to Bjork's Post". Stereogum. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  33. ^ [3]
  34. ^ [4]
  35. ^ "Diamond Rings – "Gentleman Who Fell" (Milla Jovovich Cover) (Stereogum Premiere)". Stereogum. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  36. ^ Huizenga, Tom (April 21, 2013). "'"First Listen: David Lang, 'Death Speaks. NPR. Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  37. ^ "Sun Choir – Transgressive North". Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  38. ^ "Sarah Neufeld presents the Black Ground EP + two new videos + Hero Brother Bonus Edition". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  39. ^ "Ontario Gothic". Retrieved 2014-10-29. 

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