Reg Vermue has been making music for almost ten years, a fact that will most likely be overlooked by casual music listeners. It feels like a debut, but only because American listeners more than likely have not encountered Reg in any real capacity. He occasionally performs with Broken Social Scene and he's tuned in to the Arts and Crafts Canadian indie scene, but these things don't necessarily mean notoriety in the US. As a direct result, picking up this record having no knowledge of Reg is like finding a great piece of vinyl in an old music store; buried treasure that's existed untapped for far too long.
Reg is first and foremost an indie pop craftsman. The relationship with BSS is noticeable, but far from distracting. From a songwriting standpoint, Reg is a master of subtlety, flowing smoothly from section to section, and even song to song. Structural reading between the lines of each song, each 'aside' is a delight. The dual licks in opener "Coastline" feel organic, almost necessary. The tactic is surprisingly reminiscent of Wilco; the tumbling non sequitur that eventually grows into a full-fledged chorus hook. Few can pull off such growth in such a small space and make it feel natural, but here, Reg does it masterfully.
And the true strength of Jet Black emerges; Reg's ability to develop slowly and subtlety is applied to the full length of the album. By the time we arrive at "Rudy", electronic production has crept in to the mix, and I'm guessing I'm not the only one who will suddenly feel like they've actually traveled somewhere the past forty-four minutes (oblivious during transit, of course). The only noticeable turn in the middle of the record is the abrupt discothque of "We're In A Thunderstorm", but Reg has been so earnest in the previous tracks, he gets the benefit of the doubt. Just when we're lulled to sleep by his genuine ballads, he turns up the juice.
Reg's odd appearance (he is abnormally pale with blonde hair), coupled with his airy vocals, adds to his intrigue. He is a man of duality; as his album title would suggest, he has an acute sense of humor. Subtlety is, after all, his strongest suit. I wouldn't be surprised if this record subtlety creeps up on some year-end best lists. A true Gentleman holds the door, but Reg goes one step farther. He walks us through, holds our hands and pats us on the back as we go on our way. - Joe Puglisi