Thornhill, Ontario native Paul Hayden Desser released his seventh studio album last week. Hayden’s been releasing music since 1995 on his own Hardwood Records, but this is his first album under Toronto-based label, Arts & Crafts.
The album Us Alone, is “defined by folk and rock flourishes, personal sentiment and a voice that channels Neil Young’s falsetto highs and the wavering, raspy lows of Leonard Cohen,” according to the label’s website.
Hayden recorded these songs in his home studio almost entirely on his own. He reminds us with the first track, “Motel”, that he’s back to his old tricks, plucking the guitar and tugging at listeners’ heartstrings. “I cant go on pretending this song is about young lovers born to run when it’s so clearly about you and me,” croons Hayden.
“Just Give Me a Name” is one of those happy-sad songs, and arguably the best song on the album. Hayden’s artfully drowsy voice paired with blurry guitar chords gives the listener a nostalgic and relaxed feeling.
Hayden hits a soft spot on “Blurry Nights”, accompanied by Lou Canon, Toronto-based schoolteacher-turned-singer. The song explores the ups and downs of a budding romance, “It’s okay that we had nothing to say, and that didn’t get in the way if I recall.” You can catch this classic boy-girl combo at The Rivoli in Toronto where Lou Canon and Hayden will perform on February 22nd.
“Old Dreams” is a classic Hayden ballad, kicked up a notch. The beat is a little heavier on the song, but is juxtaposed against a perky piano tune. Hayden’s music has a way of saying incredibly sweet, sentimental things, that make you want to cry and leave you feeling oddly depressed. “I don’t need my own dreams, now my dreams are your dreams. All I want is you, to be happy.”
Hayden has been criticized from some for being boring and predictable, “His longevity is as respectable as it is baffling”, said Stephen M. Deusner in his Pitchfork.com review.
On the contrary, his longevity can be accredited to his musical charm. For a long time listener of the alt-folk artist, listening to this album feels like you’re sitting down in a coffeeshop, catching up with Hayden. This album is full of moments of reflection on the time, people, and loves that have come and passed since his last album in 2009, The Place Where We Lived.
“Almost Everything” brings back the much-awaited Hayden harmonica that makes every one of his albums worth listening to. Hayden’s most prolific talent is his ability to craftily weave the soulful harmonica sound throughout his albums.
The album isn’t anything notably new or different from Hayden’s other work, but that’s kind of the reason you enjoy it. Hayden has made a name doing what he does best, writing pretty and poetic songs.
Listen to the album in its entirety here