It isn't like the world needs another Josh Rouse, but since artfully orchestrated singer-songwriter pop is so hard to do well—and since Rouse, the genre's preeminent master, is in a minor creative lull—there are plenty of reasons to spend some time with Jason Collett, a Toronto troubadour whose Idols Of Exile is as sunny and smart as Rouse in his prime. A Canadian rock-scene veteran and auxiliary member of Broken Social Scene, Collett traffics in inventive songs that hew close to the classic rock structures of Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, while adding the sound-bending tinges common to Arts & Crafts recording artists. Idols Of Exile starts with the ethereal, futurist love song "Fire" and ends with the clap-happy retro-stomper "These Are The Days," and along the way, Collett dips his toe into half a dozen genres, including country, folk, and chamber music. There are 12 distinct songs on Idols Of Exile, united by Collett's light touch and sense of snap.
The record peaks in the middle, with two dashing indie-rock anthems. On "I'll Bring The Sun," Collett adopts a slight Bob Dylan/Ryan Adams whine as he contemplates how to resurrect a failing long-distance relationship. The propulsive guitars and a soaring chorus (accompanied by ringing bells and bellowing backup singers) matches Collett's hopeful tone, and though the song ends in cacophony, the crossed fingers and gentle pleading are what lingers. Two tracks later, Collett breaks out the horn accents for the toe-tapping "Feral Republic," which shuffles along for three deceptively upbeat minutes as he sketches a scene of small-town disaffection. At the end, the song's narrator hears his partner say, "Honey, I can't afford your fear when another world is possible," a message that Collett himself seems to desperately want to believe.