As lovely as the writing, playing, and production touches are on Owen Pallett's latest, In Conflict, it's his voice that may be the album's most striking feature. It's studied in the best way; the most accomplished singers, like the best figure skaters, can make an on-the-fly series of decisions seem natural, not hammy. Take Pallett's vowel sounds: where many North American singers nasalize the "ee," Pallett (a Canadian) is almost halfway to a resonant "ih," with some weight in the jaw and roundedness to the lips. Similarly, he backs out of his ending "r" sounds gracefully, not with the melodrama of a Broadway singer (who would finish the "or" more as "aw") but with just enough of the consonant to punctuate the word and let it go.
His vocal phrasing is smart -- from his shaping of individual notes to the way he accentuates certain words or syllables in a passage to voice them like the natural flow of speech. Many contemporary pop artists, and even songwriters, don't have much regard for conversational lilts in lyrics -- not in the meanings of the words, but in in making those word-sounds more than just notes. Katy Perry probably wouldn't say "un-CON-di-SHUN-uh-LEE," so why would she sing it with the emphasis on those syllables?
03 June, 2014