A now long-respected stalwart of the Toronto indie scene, singer/songwriter and former Broken Social Scene guitarist Jason Collett returns after his longest gap between solo albums yet with 2016's Song and Dance Man. While 2012's Reckon took on the political themes and anxieties of an election year during uncertain times, Song and Dance Man -- named for a Bob Dylan response in a 1965 interview ("I think of myself more as a song and dance man") -- while again arriving between Canadian and American national elections, is a more regretful, nostalgic affair. It was produced by Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas, who adds a breezy touch to Collett's reflective set right from the airy, sauntering opener, "Provincial Blues" ("We all get left behind by the times sometimes"). The Dylanesque "Long Day's Shadow" employs easygoing lap steel and spiraling guitars to evoke the scene-setting song's imagery. Meanwhile, the classic country of "If She Don't Love Me Now" brings tropical rhythms and more sunny lap steel to the lament for a lost love. Many of the lyrics, though, return to the subject of the passage of time with a discontented present. The brisk but pessimistic title track bemoans the challenges of the musician's life ("Jingling and jangling/Living in a van/If we can just sell some t-shirts/We could pay for gas") and longs for better days ("Now that the future has swallowed up the past/It's one step forward and two steps back"). Elsewhere, the sultry and playful "It Don't Matter Anymore" offers "I'm too tired to try to make you feel like everything will be all right," while "Forever Young Is Getting Old" observes "It was easy come and easy go/Now there's no easy road." While the melodies are comforting and the arrangements largely warm and relaxed with palm trees not far from view, the message gets through that times are getting harder, and with wisdom comes frustration. The subject matter, on top of the clean, '50s- and '70s-influenced songcraft, may appeal more to those approaching middle age and beyond than to the industry's coveted demographic -- not that there's anything wrong with that.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson