Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hayden - Skyscraper National Park

I missed a few weeks where I meant to cover new albums by Spoon (pretty awesome) and Retribution Gospel Choir (really awesome, read my interview with Alan Sparhawk here), but since these have had their fair share of press I'm going to look back a little and share an old favorite. Tonight is quiet and snowy and calls for some music to match the mood.

Hadyen - Skyscraper National Park [Badman/Hardwood, 2001]

Hayden began making music back in 1996, as a shorter version of his full name, Hayden Desser. This Canadian began his musical career with an exceptionally low, raspy voice and a usually out-of-tune guitar, singing songs of loss and heartbreak so rough and honest that you could never call them whiny. Putting out his debut in that year, he floundered around with a little acclaim, until his 2001 album Skyscraper National Park turned from a self-distributed CD-R into a breakout album. OK, so it's not a total breakout because you've never heard of the guy, but I'm here to change all that.

Skyscraper National Park is instantly more accessible where his previous work could be challenging--Hayden traded in his gruff baritone for a more modest range and supplemented his great acoustic guitar work with some electric and synthesizers. Still, the album maintains its roots in bleak Canadian folk. Hayden's narrative and subject matter remain similar, evocatively dealing with a car crash, a home invasion, or simple things like driving out of the city into the wilderness. The sound borders on melancholy due to its subdued nature, but there is really beautiful music behind the arrangements and singing. Particularly, "Dynamite Walls" is a smash, with a sweeping build of electric guitar as Hayden paints a picture of driving down the highway, escaping city lights in favor of tree lines. This is an ideal album for gloomy weather, bedtime, or just relaxing outside. I'd recommend exploration of his other work too, as his previous albums featured some great acoustic guitar/harmonica work and his latter ones are packed full of some great pop gems with full orchestration. For now, grab these two tracks off of Skyscraper National Park and see if it's your thing.

download:   Dynamite Walls
download:   Street Car

Hayden has been uncharacteristically active lately, releasing 2009's excellent The Place Where We Live after only a one year gap from his previous album In Field & Town. Here's to hoping he's got another gem in store for 2010!

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