Jason Collett is world-wise, but not world-weary, on his new record, Here’s To Being Here. The latest Broken Social Scene-r to release a solo album (see Kevin Drew’s Spirit If… – QRO review – and The Apostle of Hustle’s National Anthem of Nowhere – QRO review), Collett has inflected more folk into his rock since 2005’s Idols of Exile, with a seventies-clever vibe, and even picked up some Caribbean influences. While he’s better when low-key and wistful than bigger and more rocking, Collett gives us a touching tribute to here, there, and everywhere.
The tone is set for Here’s To Being Here with the opener, “Roll On Oblivion”. Experienced and knowing, the title is made into not a downbeat dirge but a wry smile, and a fine beat and keys effects to go with Collett’s strong guitar. The singer/songwriter employs a ‘Me Decade’ smart-aleck-ness on in (akin to Britt Daniel on Spoon’s recent Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – QRO review – or Jeff Tweedy on Wilco’s recent Sky Blue Sky – QRO review), with the following “Sorry Lori” and “Out of Time”, the upbeat cool of the latter playing especially well. A sad, epic, piano-man comes through on “Henry’s Song” (which is particularly reminiscent of Idols), and a sly, drunk-wise nature on the catchy folk-blues of “Nothing To Lose”.
Collett also dips his toe into the bigger rock stylings of the seventies, but without quite as much success. “Papercut Hearts”, “Through the Night These Days”, and “Not Over You” all have some skill and power, but feel a little overdone for such simple numbers. Here ends with the slow and soft “Somehow” and “Waiting For the World”; both nice, they might be a touch too light.
The strongest pieces on the record are in the Anglophile middle, the north-south one-two punch of “Charlyn, Angel of Kensington” and “No Redemption Song”. “Charlyn” employs calypso drumming, the most prominent example of Collett’s West Indies flavoring on Here (maybe a nod to The Apostle’s Cuban influences on Anthem?…). Meanwhile, “No Redemption” is a wistful ode to his Canadian home; catchy and lovely, it’s wry without being jaded or cynical.
But in a way, Here’s To Being Here is an ode to the whole of North America, its wide-open plains, hot islands and rockin’ times. There’s not a road-trip highway or boat-ride seaway where Collett wouldn’t be welcome on the radio dial.