Great works of art invite comparison, and the insular tag of “singer-songwriter” often narrows the criteria of judgment. It has been said that independent music’s new Bruce Springsteen is The Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, so it would be tidy to claim that the heart of New American Rock And Roll lies in Canada. Under this paradigm, it would stand to follow that Jason Collett is the new Tom Petty. On Collett’s third Arts & Crafts release Here’s To Being Here, the vocal similarities and 70s radio feel are easy dots to connect.
Where Collett’s most apt Petty comparison lies, however, is in the simple excitement that the album captures. It’s a feeling found in the best of Petty’s solo work: that of a man backed by a “band without ties” and given a certain sense of freedom in the process. As Broken Social Scene’s guitarist, Collett is a member of a collective with an experimental aura and a certain sense of expectation. As a solo artist and a songwriter, his only agenda is grounded in the notion that the best songs are the simplest. The irresistible twang of “Sorry Lou”, the backroads feel of “Roll On Oblivion”, and the straightforward Westerberg-era rock of “Papercut Hearts” serve as proof that “simple” is beautiful.
Lyrically, the sentiment matches the music. Collett turns phrases with ease, but also without risk; these are bits of narrative prose set to music. “When you’re long in the tooth and short in the sleeve, there’s nowhere left to hide,” sings the “everyman” narrator on “Out of Time”. On this album, it’s the “nothing to hide” that serves as the glue holding it all together. Here’s To Being Here is a strange bird only in the sense that it has achieved a rare goal: it’s a record that is steeped in tradition without being tied to the past.