As far as power ballads go, you could do worse than Taylor Swift’s “The Last Time," which features Northern Irish singer Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol. A dramatic back-and-forth duet between a man and woman about their failing but enduring relationship, the song is well-crafted, emotional and features an instantly hummable refrain.
The drama is pushed forward when an orchestra arrives to amplify the tension beneath the chorus and gently lift the melody via strings and brass. It’s a little bombastic, but not excessively so, and if the approach sounds familiar to fans of a certain Grammy-winning Montreal indie rock band, there’s a reason. “The Last Time” was arranged by musician Owen Pallett, who is best known for his work co-arranging Arcade Fire’s debut album “Funeral” and its follow-up, “Neon Bible.”
Over the last decade Pallett has gradually ascended to the top of his profession by powering an array of songs by artists including Beirut, the Last Shadow Puppets and acclaimed Canadian hard-core punk band F-ed Up (the first half of their name is unprintable in a family newspaper). Pallet has also remixed Grizzly Bear and Death from Above 1979.
That Taylor Swift shares an arranger with F-ed Up and Arcade Fire illustrates one of the many ways the superstar singer is pushing outside her comfort zone. This effort is all over “Red,” which sold over 1.2 million copies in its first week and has received some of the best reviews of the 22-year-old singer’s career.
And expect Pallett’s profile to grow from here -- one of the many benefits of landing a credit on a Swift recording in 2012.
Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit