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Musicians You Should Hear Now: Owen Pallett and Little Scream

Eat your heart out, Coachella: This upcoming weekend, the MusicNow Festival will return to Cincinnati for its sixth year, proving that the Midwest has more to offer than Dairy Queen and Tea Party constituents. The festival, curated by Bryce Dessner of The National, has a history of hosting talented, contemporary musicians before they reach broader critical acclaim and has seen the likes of Grizzly Bear, Andrew Bird, and Justin Vernon, to name a few. Although hometown boys The National will headline the final night of the festival, Becca and I have been particularly digging two acts that will be playing on Saturday night — Little Scream and Owen Pallett.

This week Becca and I are together for the first time in the history of our tenure at The Nerdist, so we had an interesting time coauthoring this post (Becca says, “whatup”). When trying to decide how we would divide up the writing responsibilities for covering Little Scream and Owen Pallett, we developed fan crushes on either, making the allocation process much easier: Becca wrote about the dude and I wrote about the girl.

Little Scream –aka Laurel Sprengelmeyer –is an Iowa born, Montreal based belle whose illogical name makes perfect sense. Though she is a skilled multi- instrumentalist, her most deadly weapon is that voice of hers. She is able to create ghostly resonances and distant coos but has no qualms with tearing you a new one with every inch of her lungs.

So not surprisingly, her debut, The Golden Record is truly a dynamic, emotional work of art. Co-produced by Richard Reed Perry of Arcade Fire, the album vacillates between despondent hymnals and face shredding folk-fuzz. It’s this sort of versatility and artistic vision that makes The Golden Record one of our favorite new albums.

But what would a good album be without a nerdy backstory? The LP is a reference to a late 70s Voyager mission which sought/seeks to communicate with extraterrestrials by including a disc of recorded sounds and images that apparently represent the accomplishments of Earth. It’s a shame that vessel is somewhere in the deep chasm of the 4th dimension, because I probably would have thrown Little Scream’s album in there, along with a Tamagachi and the sixth season of Cheers.

But in short: Little Scream + Extraterrestrial Communication + MusicNow = Win for Humans

(Editor’s note: Becca Gleason takes over for this part, in case it’s not obvious)

Another Canadian artist that your ears may have accidentally tuned out because of a few too many Doctor Who marathons, holidays, or maybe a really long game of Words With Friends, is none other than musical mastermind Owen Pallett. The multi-instrumentalist composer from Toronto is perhaps most recognized by his former moniker Final Fantasy, an homage to that video game series I don’t know anything about because I’m a girl. But I digress.

Pallett sounds like an electronic Andrew Bird. Using similar looping techniques during live performances, he creates a textured musical extravaganza using keyboards and violin. Not only are his dexterity and talent obvious, but he draws influences from sources we nerds can appreciate: Super Mario Land and Dungeons and Dragons! And to sound even more like 16 year old at a Justin Bieber concert, he’s like, collaborated with alllll my favorite bands. Pallett’s musical resume is mind boggling -he has worked with the likes of Grizzly Bear, Arcade Fire, Stars, Beirut, Duran Duran, Great Lake Swimmers, and even Mika. This past year he worked on the score of Submarine, which I mentioned a month or so ago in a post. Perhaps our world is small, or maybe it’s just that the bands we like are all friends with each other already. All I know is, Owen Pallett kicks ass.

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  1. Conor says:

    Sometimes living in Cincinnati doesn’t suck. MPMF and MusicNow are two of those times. Once Chris Hardwick did stand up here. Once.

  2. Daniel says:

    Saw Little Scream open for Julie Doiron a few months ago. Pretty impressive stuff.

    Owen’s great too.

  3. Brilliam says:

    Owen also did some of the string arrangements on Arcade Fire albums! I don’t remember which ones though. Maybe Funeral, and maybe the EP beforehand… more Montreal connection! <3 my city

  4. EricR says:

    Want to hear more from these bands? Check them out at CBC Radio3 — each artist has a profile page there with access to free streaming tracks and (in Owen’s case), live concert recordings:
    Owen Pallett – [ ]
    Little Scream – [ ]