The National, Owen Pallett at the Egyptian Room: Melancholia Meets Moogles in Indianapolis

Melancholia meets Moogles when Brooklyn rockers The National combine forces with Canadian violinist Owen Pallett (formerly known as Final Fantasy) at the Murat Egyptian Room this Saturday, October 2. The National follow closely in the footsteps of New Wave bands like Joy Division and New Order, but they’ve still been able to solidify their own sound over their ten years of existence. Owen Pallett dabbles more in composition, combining elegant string arrangements with quirky synths, meandering piano lines, and his instantly recognizable, delicate falsetto. The two bands seem to be on opposite ends of the musical spectrum: one is moody and deliberate while the other delights in experimentation and musical flights of fancy. But The National and Owen Pallett share at least one thing in common: a classical background. For proof that not all classical musicians think alike, come see The National and Owen Pallett at the Old National Centre (formerly the Murat Centre) in Indianapolis on Saturday, October 2.

Video of Owen Pallett performing “Lewis Takes His Shirt Off” live; Owen Pallett will be playing with The National in Indianapolis October 2


The National was founded in Brooklyn in 1999, when old friends from the University of Cincinnati moved to New York City and joined up with a few new acquaintances still recovering from the collapse of their former band, Project Nim. The band released their eponymous debut album in 2001, and it was quickly followed by Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, their first album with producer Peter Katis, who produced many of the band’s later records. Though The National and Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers were successes in their own right, it wasn’t until 2005’s Alligator that the band hit their stride. The album charted on many publications’ Best of the Year lists and was called one of the top albums of the 2000’s by Pitchfork. The follow up, Boxer, met with even more success; it was hailed as best album of the year by Paste magazine and many singles from Boxer appeared on TV shows. 2008’s High Violet cemented The National as one of the most critically acclaimed groups of the decade, topping sales charts around the world and leading to several live television appearances.

Video of The National performing “Bloodbuzz Ohio” live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2010; The National will be playing with Owen Pallett in Indianapolis October 2


Throughout The National’s five studio releases, listeners can easily chart a progression from the band’s alt country origins to their current “indie” sounds. Each song by The National is a progression in its own right, especially on High Violet. Most songs start with a simple guitar riff, maybe a couple drum hits or two, and then the signature baritone of Matt Berninger comes in. From there, each song builds to a tremendous finale, adding guitars and synths to the mix, different rhythms and different timings, all swelling to a cluttered collage by the end. Structurally the songs don’t vary much, but the beauty of The National is in progression, how one instrument in a track supports and informs another until everything gels into a cohesive whole. It doesn’t hurt that Bryce Dessner is a classically trained guitarist who used to play with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, a New York City classical music organization. His guitar sounds and arrangements add an increasing sense of the avant garde to The National’s music.

Video of The National performing “Apartment Story” live; The National will be playing with Owen Pallett in Indianapolis October 2


Dessner isn’t the only classically trained musician taking the stage at the Old National Centre on Saturday. Owen Pallett composed his first classical piece on violin at age 13, and prior to launching Final Fantasy he penned scores for video games and movies. Pallett even wrote a commissioned piece for Bang on a Can, the same organization that The National’s Bryce Dessner used to belong to. Pallett made his solo music debut under the moniker Final Fantasy, a title he cribbed from one of his favorite video game series. He released two albums as Final Fantasy, Has a Good Home and He Poos Clouds. He Poos Clouds was far and away the most successful of the two, winning him the 2006 Polaris Music Prize (he donated the prize money to other struggling bands) and gaining attention from Indianapolis media outlets and others around the United States. In 2009, Pallett dropped the Final Fantasy moniker and released Heartland under his own name.

Video of Owen Pallett covering Joanna Newsom’s “Peach, Plum, Pear” live; Owen Pallett will be playing with The National in Indianapolis October 2


Heartland took Pallett’s music in a slightly more serious direction. His previous two releases dealt largely in veiled video game references (eight of the ten songs in He Poos Clouds directly relate to schools of magic in Dungeons and Dragons), though he still managed to include themes of death, atheism, and real estate in He Poos Clouds. The music itself is entirely unique, combining string arrangements with 8-bit synths, dribbling piano, and self replicating vocal harmonies. Pallett’s songs stop and start on a dime, some of them slowly gaining momentum, others never seeming to find a rhythm. The songs on Heartland take a more structured approach while sacrificing none of He Poos Clouds‘ endearing quirkiness. Centering around a story about a farmer discussing life, the universe, and everything with his Creator, Heartland delves into theology, self discovery, and the meaning of fantasy. Though he could most closely be compared with Indianapolis bands like Jookabox and Slothpop, Pallett really has a sound all his own.

Video interview with Owen Pallett about Heartland; Owen Pallett will be playing with The National in Indianapolis October 2


Live, The National and Owen Pallett should create an interesting night for Indianapolis nightlife. Owen Pallett utilizes a looping pedal for his violin, broadcasting different pitches to different speakers around the stage. He creates a one man performance that’s as dynamic as any of his recorded material. The National provide a more straightforward rock show, but with a sense of intimacy you don’t see in a lot of other bands their size. The natural swell of their songs can lead to some great moments on stage; any Indianapolis music fan should dig the chance to see these two bands live in an historic Indianapolis music venue. This Indianapolis event begins at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 2. Tickets are just $25, a steal for two bands that usually have exorbitant ticket prices at bigger venues. To find the place where fantasy and new wave meet and mingle, head down to the Old National Centre in downtown Indianapolis to see The National and Owen Pallett perform live.

The National and Owen Pallett at the Murat Egyptian Room
Saturday, October 2, 2010

Murat Theatre Centre (Old National)
502 N New Jersey St
Indianapolis, IN 46204

The Murat, now known as the Old National Centre, is a premier Indianapolis performing arts venue