Jason Collett

Idols Of Exile

[Arts & Crafts]

Jason Collett, one of the principal forerunners of the Toronoto label Arts & Crafts (see: Feist’s Let It Die and Stars’ Set Yourself on Fire), is an active performer in the label’s centerpiece, Broken Social Scene. However, Collett has never been truly interested in the unbridled anthemia of that band, instead choosing to tinker with early 1970s folk-rock, an era when Jackson Browne and others realized that a social agenda wrapped cleanly in a pop melody was an effective way to communicate with a jaded audience. Though he tries to match the transcendence of Browne and his Canadian counterparts, Collett never does. What’s left is a semi-enjoyable pop album like Idols Of Exile, strewn with excellently upbeat melodies that are almost nullified by a domineering darkness.

Without the American dream to disseminate (as those folk-rock troubadours had), Collett inevitably turns inward, giving Exile, his third album, a distinct Canadian diffidence. His songs operate in an expansive space, but do not try to fully encompass it. Being the songsmith that he is, Collett never wants to abandon his pop music leanings, instead reconciling his salient notions of regret and guilt by operating in terse phrases and abstract imagery.

A lot of the time he fails, and falls into self-pity and grand incongruity, but sometimes he is able to bridge the disparity as on “Hangover Days.” Here he pairs a jilted lover’s lament with a recollection of newfound passion, detailing it all over one of the most accomplished melodies this year. The song is a semi-duet with Metric’s Emily Haines, whose edgy sweetness gives Collett’s paramour the context he needs in order to engender some vindication with the listener. Still, Collett is at his strongest when he reverses the roles. On “I’ll Bring The Sun” he rapturously sets himself up as the savior of a failed relationship. This role allows him to exude an undercurrent of loss, but here it lingers, not dominates, bridging and destroying the gap that defines and irreparably hurts the album.

Catch Jason Collett of Broken Social Scene Friday, April 9 at Highdive with Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin. Show starts at 7 p.m.

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