With nothing but a brief break to record a second album accounting for the slightest wane in Arcade Fire mania, the time seems right for all the inevitable side-projects to take center stage.

With nothing but a brief break to record a second album accounting for the slightest wane in Arcade Fire mania, the time seems right for all the inevitable side-projects to take center stage. One, Bell Orchestre, wasn't quite ready for its close-up. Final Fantasy, led by self-taught Arcade Fire violinist and arranger Owen Pallett, is another matter.

Chamber pop with a contemporary classical edge, Final Fantasy's second album "He Poos Clouds" occasionally recalls both the whimsy of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and the spooky experimentation of Arthur Russell (in cello mode), but the disc has a distinctive power all its own, drawing you almost intimately close into Pallett's weird little world. Once in there you can (if you choose) move past the pretty (and sometimes menacing) music and explore Pallett's words, which contrary to what one might assume from an album with the terrible title "He Poos Clouds," betray a detail-oriented and poetic lyricist whose incisive portraits stand in stark contrast to the usual indie-rock place holders.

"This Lamb Sells Condos" is allegedly an indictment of a Toronto real estate maven. "No hope for the village," sings Pallett. "There's a merchant in our midst." In "He Poos Clouds," he's dismayed that "all the boys I've ever loved have been digital." "If I Were a Carp" betrays the maritime influence of folk nymph Joanna Newsom: "Heave ho, farewell to the quay! Merry sailors, sailors we! The horizon is our proscenium!" Back away from the buried lyrics, though, and Pallett's big-picture vision becomes something stranger and more mysterious, simply an undiscovered country of sound awaiting your arrival. -- Joshua Klein