Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part Two

3. Owen Pallett
In Conflict
(Secret City)

There are myriad reasons why Owen Pallett was a newsmaker in 2014; Cam Lindsay covers most of them here. But what about his own music, his own album, which it seems he barely had any time to tour behind? Every one of Pallett's records is better than the last, so it goes without saying that this is his best. It's supposedly his most personal; the only way you would know that would be if he told you so, because other than silly love songs, what more universal themes could there be than control and chaos, fertility and faith, memory and motion, drinking and depression, and the "terror of the infinite"?

Pallett not only transforms philosophy and poetry into pop songs, he's increasingly deft at balancing beautiful abstraction with a visceral punch, never more so than on the thunderous "Riverbed." Bringing his old Les Mouches bandmates Matt Smith and Rob Gordon into the fold brings a live energy to half the tracks here; elsewhere, Pallett plunges into whirlpools of synth arpeggios just as often as he wields his trusty violin. Ten years into his career, Pallett pulled in many new fans in 2014, all of whom discovered a rich, complex and rewarding album made by one of the most fascinating musicians of our time. (Michael Barclay)