Us Alone

Hayden

Arts & Crafts Records, 2013

http://www.wasteyourdaysaway.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/04/2013

The reclusive singer/songwriter Paul Hayden Desser finally puts out an album on a formal label. Oh, I'm sure he'll miss that underdog romanticism when he was hand distributing homemade cassette tapes in the '90s. And of course there was that fleeting shot at fame when he was signed to a Geffen subsidiary, though the well dried up quick when people's interest in '90s alt-rock dissipated. Now in a more refined place in his musical career, seminal indie label Arts & Crafts (Jason Collett, Broken Social Scene) seems like the perfect fit for his sparse folk rock and contemplative songcraft.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Though he began his career on the louder side of the spectrum, now that he is in his forties and a family man, Hayden is at a much softer place in his musical mind. Us Alone, his seventh studio album, finds the troubadour very reflective and introspective; accordingly, the stripped back sounds come through in an intimate and hushed setting.

Often bringing to mind a younger Neil Young, “Motel” has a very haunting, '70s feel and even references Springsteen. “Oh Memory” draw parallels to his fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen, and being one of the longer songs here, it's a wandering mix of pianos and organs with a melancholy feel. Lou Canon, Hayden's sister-in-law, appears on the duet “Blurry Nights,” one of the strongest tracks present, though the dreamy “Just Give Me A Name” is a close second. While the entire album has a ballad-like atmosphere, “Old Dreams” is a legitimate ballad with some very eloquent, forthright wordplay.

Not surprisingly, the subject matter here is extremely well thought out and mature. Infidelity, mortality, the evolution of his career, and the trials and tribulations of romance are all explored, and it leaves little doubt that Hayden has grappled with all these subjects at great length.  

Recorded by himself in his home studio where he played all the instruments, Us Alone has a very live feel with delicate textures and the occasional loud guitar or appearance from his always well-received harmonica. Seeing as most of us here in the States are going to be unfamiliar with Hayden, this is a great starting point for one of Canada's least seen but most often talked about singer-songwriters.

Rating: B+

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