The challenge Jason Collett faced on his first offering for Arts & Crafts was to establish a clear artistic identity independent of his contributions to what is, both literally and figuratively, one of Canada’s biggest indie acts, Broken Social Scene. While many members of the band—which includes members of well-regarded groups like Stars, Metric, and assorted solo acts, including Kevin Drew—appear on Idols of Exile, the album never once sounds as though it’s out of Collett’s capable hands. Stripping away the layers of distortion and the improvisational shifts in arrangements from Broken Social Scene’s trademark sound, Collett foregrounds the gift for straightforward pop composition that is so often obscured by the collectivist approach of his singer-songwriter community, meaning that Idols of Exile is an album of immediately engaging folk-pop. Collett’s melodies are the selling point here, as his lyrics occasionally veer farther away from his stated influences (Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan) and obvious contemporaries (Jeff Tweedy, Ryan Adams’s better days) into abrasive freak-folk territory. Really, a line like, “I love it when my girlfriend calls me a cocksucking faggot” (from “Pink Line”) grows exponentially less funny with each listen, and the references to pissing behind a shopping mall and finding meaning in an old mixtape ultimately turn into somewhat strident, High Fidelity-style authenticity posturing. On the whole, though, Idols of Exile proves that Collett need not resort to stunt-writing. At his most direct, he fully holds his own against the likes of Adams or Ron Sexsmith, and for his compositional skill, Idols of Exile is perhaps a more consistent album than either of those two has released. If not as transcendent as Broken Social Scene, Idols of Exile succeeds in positioning Collett, even in such a crowded field, as a singer-songwriter worth following.
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: