Jason Collett is perhaps best known in the US as the tall, well-dressed, best-looking member of Broken Social Scene. Towering above the rest of his band mates, the rugged and handsome Collett spends most of his time at the back of the stage strumming and plucking away at his beautiful sunburst red guitar. But before he was a member of Broken Social Scene, he was a catalyst that helped to bring about the now world-famous sense of community and friendship amongst Toronto’s indie scene. It was his casual songwriting night, Radio Mondays, that brought together the likes of Hayden, Kathleen Edwards, the Weakerthans and, of course, many of his eventual Broken Social Scene pals, and helped to solidify the city’s burgeoning indie rock scene. Collett’s new album, Idols Of Exile, holds true to those early days of playing music with a group of like-minded musicians and friends. A slew of hometown friends and label-mates make appearances on Idols, including Kevin Drew & Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene, Andrew Whiteman of Apostle Of Hustle, the amazing Leslie Feist, Evan Cranley and Amy Milan of Stars and Metric’s James Shaw & Emily Haines. It’s these contributions that give Idols the same je ne sais quoi that makes all of Arts & Crafts releases special – a true sense of love and appreciation for the music that can’t be replicated by studio musicians.
Collett packs Idols Of Exile from front to back with thoughtful, eclectic modern day folk songs with the soul of the hard-living, twang-filled exploits of true American country. Pop elements also abound, with catchy hooks, sing-a-long choruses and universal lyrical themes like love, loss, abandonment, and loneliness. The smooth and mellow “Fire” leads off the album with soft acoustic strumming and quiet, whispery vocals, sounding instantly more rich and full than his previous effort and paving the way for the eleven very special songs to follow. While the opening track featured backing vocals from Amy Milan, the next track, “Hangover Days,” is a gorgeous love song duet with Emily Haines (Feist sings backing vocals) that is one of the album’s most memorable and unique songs. “We All Lose One Another” is a heartfelt ballad with a gigantic sing-a-long chorus, while “I’ll Bring The Sun” is a fast-paced, Americana-filled shot in the arm that I dare you not to like. Where his last effort was a collection of previously-released material, Idols Of Exile is the album that will put Jason Collett on the map in the States and give him an identity as more than just “the tall guitarist from Broken Social Scene.” I truly think this record is going to surprise (and impress) a lot of people.