I wrote a post about what books people got for the holidays, and got some interesting responses. But what about music?
Curiously, my wife and I don't usually get one another a lot of music. For some reason, books are easier. But I did get her one disc, He Poos Clouds, by a Toronto violinist and composer named Owen Pallett, a.k.a. Final Fantasy. Helen and I first heard it when driving between Toronto and my Mom's house out in the county on New Year's Eve. We were listening to CBC 3 (CBC's indie rock station -- my god, there's something so Canadian about founding a bureaucratic state institution to handle indie rock*) and they had a year-in-review of the Canadian rock scene, which ended up being great, because for whatever reason Canada is just bristling with rock talent right now. And my favorite track was this thing called "This Lamb Sells Condos" by Final Fantasy (from the aforementioned He Poos Clouds) which has this off-kilter Mikrokosmos-type piano lick that got stuck in my mind. So, anyway, got the album for Helen, and it's just awesome. Pallett has said that he thinks most string arrangements in post-rock albums kind of suck, so I suppose that his own string arrangements for He Poos Clouds (the songs are mostly strings) are meant to show how it should be done. Well, they do show how it should be done. I like post-rock albums with strings, and I'm probably not as discriminating about the arrangements as Pallett is, but I've never heard strings on a pop/rock record that sound like this.
Like Andrew Bird, Pallett performs live with an array of pedals and samplers that let him make self-accompanied songs out of layers of loops. It's kind of commonplace now, actually (Robert Fripp was doing stuff like it in the 1970s), but like anything else, it's not the gimmick that matters, it's the execution. This clip put a smile on my face.
*Is this awesome, or is it everything you've fought against for all these years? Discuss.