Scene Stealer

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Singer-songwriter Jason Collett has a theory as to why his hometown of Toronto has become the Seattle of the new millenium. Once known for exporting goof-popsters Barenaked Ladies and mopey alt-country troubadours the Cowboy Junkies, Toronto and other Canadian hotspots have lately produced some of the hippest indie-rock on college radio. "Canada doesn't celebrate its artists," he says. "So you fall into these little communities that validate you, and your work [thrives]."

On his second album, Idols of Exile, Collett crafts a wordy, melodic mix of alt-country and indie-pop that's trickier than it initially lets on. Buzzing with Dylanesque narratives and subtle hooks, the CD finds inspiration in Canada's modern rock scene. "I didn't want this to sound like a typical singer-songwriter record," he says. "I wanted to make it richer than that."

Collett borrowed some of that resonance from Broken Social Scene, his other music project. He joined the band as a guitarist after its breakthrough 2002 disc, You Forgot It in People. Collett's 2001 solo debut, Bitter Beauty, was a rootsy weeper, and Idols of Exile continues to mine the same indie-pop territory.

Collett says his solo career is a welcome break from that gig. For one thing, he doesn't take months to perfect his albums. "I prefer quantity over quality," he says, referring to Broken Social Scene's meticulous studio process. "I like writing songs. I want to get them out there."

Still, each offers something the other doesn't, says Collett. Broken Social Scene's grandiloquent chamber pop doesn't sound very much like the twangy folk on Idols of Exile. "The band thing is much more dense," he says. "There's not a lot of room to move with that many people." But that didn't stop him from recruiting friends to join him on his new CD. Members of Metric, Feist, Stars, and, of course, Broken Social Scene make appearances. "I loved having all my friends drop by," he says. "I wanted each song to have a different feel to it. Bringing in all these people did that."

For his tour, Collette recruited an Ontario four-piece to back him, but as is often the case with Toronto artists, chances are good that a trumpet player, another guitarist, or half a dozen other musicians will join him onstage. It just depends on who's in town. "We never know what's going to happen," says Collett.
Sun., April 9, 9 p.m.

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