Jason Collett

Here's to Being Here (Arts and Crafts) -1 star

When you peel off the cellophane and pry open the plastic case of a new CD, you’re always hopeful that the disc will deliver something special. Maybe it will introduce you to an artist who’s trying to break with tradition and create something new. Or maybe, if the artist doesn’t push the boundaries of music, the product will still boast some diversity. At the very least, said artist should present songs that are distinguishable from one another. Unfortunately, Jason Collett seems hopelessly incapable of doing any of these things.

The folk-rock artist, who hails from Canada, recently released his fourth solo album “Here’s to Being Here.” Collett, perhaps better known for his membership in the heavily-populated indie-rock group “Broken Social Scene,” took time off from the band to make his latest release—perhaps he should have stuck with them.

At first glance, the CD immediately gives off the impression of an artist way too into himself. The cover is a close-up of Collett’s face: he’s looking away from the camera while he strokes his scruff-laden chin. Collet’s visage is meant to look pensive, but instead he simply looks ridiculous.

Despite the cover, the album starts off pleasantly enough with “Roll On Oblivion.” The song features Collett’s nasal voice accompanied by guitar, drums, and maracas. It has a vibe that recalls Jack Johnson and leaves the listener excited to hear more. It seems like a good start to a good thing, but the next song, “Sorry Lori,” sounds strikingly similar. In fact, the whole first half of the album is replete with tracks that can scarcely be differentiated from one another.

The sixth track, “Charlyn, Angel of Kensington,” is the first that breaks out of the mold. “Charlyn” was one of two songs from the album released for promotional purposes, and it’s clear why. Here, Collett actually creates an original sound by including an upbeat percussion rhythm. Aside from the beat, the track isn’t much different from its predecessors, but you’ll take what you can get after the first twenty-odd minutes of repetition.

The aural pleasure is short-lived, however, as the second half of the album immediately returns to its former banal self. The closing track, “Waiting for the World,” will more likely find the listener simply waiting for the album to end. Once it finally does, it’s so forgettable that it’s hard to even remember what made the disc so terrible.

Throughout, Collett sings in a voice reminiscent of Bob Dylan and occasionally even channels the folk legend through harmonica riffs. But while he’s got the sound and the lilt down, Collett possesses only a tiny fraction of Dylan’s songwriting talent. He seemingly lacks the ability to create anything inventive, interesting, or meaningful. From time to time, Collett throws in a couple of different instruments and marginally varies a tune or two, but overall he fails to break out of the small box he has fashioned for himself.

Jason Collett’s lack of diversity has led him to create a highly forgettable and uninspiring album. There are only a few fleeting moments when “Here’s to Being Here” shows any promise, and they quickly fade away when he returns to his standard, unsuccessful formula of poorly channeling better musicians. Hopefully Collett will soon be making use of the other eighteen members of Broken Social Scene. Maybe then he’ll create something novel.