Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Records In Review: Jason Collett--Idols Of Exile

This is the most recent solo record by Torontonian Collett. It comes in a nicely designed paper sleeve, featuring a charcoal-drawn profile of the singer looking like a Law and Order perp who's been nabbed for credit card fraud (as seems to be the norm for Canadian indie musicians at the moment). He's on the Arts & Crafts label, home to Broken Social Scene, among others; in fact, the album features contributions from members of BSS, as well as other local indie heroes Metric, Stars and KC Accidental. Up-and-comer Leslie Feist contributes some backing vox.

Idols of Exile is mostly acoustic countryish stuff, but there's some jangle-pop, indie sonics and a considerable helping of camp. A lot of the songs are ripely (but gently) orchestrated in the style of Collett's aforementioned contemporaries, with lots of horns, and the odd banjo and mandolin thrown in, and in fact the mood of a couple of the songs, like the relaxed opener "Fire," evoke the quieter moments of BSS. Pacing is very slow to mid, matching the singer's groaning, achy delivery.

This is a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of the album is too self-aware for its own good, in my not so humble opinion. The Rufus Wainrightesque (Collett's voice resembles RW in terms of delivery) OTT numbers "Hangover Days" and "Brownie Hawkeye" are nicely crafted but just too too much. The more straightforward tracks are better, like the Blue Rodeo-ish "We All Lose One Another" and the happy jangle-pop "I'll Bring The Sun," although "Pink Night," with its (I think) obvious Band allusions and arch Dylan vocal outtro is one of the more rousing songs. The quieter moments like "Tinsel And Sawdust" are okay, but tend to flatline due to JC's whispered vocal style, which doesn't exactly turn this mutha out. "Parry Sound" is kinda pretty, but as the lyrics talk only about trees, rocks and lakes and make no mention of the Stockey Centre/Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, colour me disappointed. The lyrics--mostly reminiscences--are very good, although a little impenetrable at times: "It was in your basement apartment/with all of its earth and sea." You might want to ask the landlord to get an inspector in, Jace.

Idols Of Exile is a pleasant, if unexciting listen, interrupted by the occasional bit of annoyance. Recommended to those who have a higher country and camp tolerance than me.