Paul Hayden Desser is a Canadian singer-songwriter with a wide ranging style (folk, grunge, pop, rock, country) that has, over the years, been refined to what is probably best described as Alternative Indie Folk. He has just released his eight album called ‘Hey Love’, a set of songs about his muse – Love.
Going by the singular ‘Hayden’ he has been around for quite a while, this being his eight album, although only his second on Arts & Crafts, the label he signed to in November 2012. Prior to that his releases had all been on his own Hardwood Records label in Canada.
His first album, ‘Everything I Long For’ (1995), forming part of a bidding war which ultimately saw him sign to David Geffen’s subsidiary imprint Outpost Records for a $1 million plus contract which, at the time, was one of the most lucrative deals ever given to a new alternative artist.
Hayden is incredibly popular within his native Canada and it is a shame he hasn’t achieved the same level of acclaim beyond those shores.
However, on ‘Hey Love’, the Toronto musician and songwriter may have produced an album that is the culmination of his musical vision and which could see him get some love outside of his homeland.
It is a sensitive and emotional album of songs that can only come from someone who has lived and experienced life but also has the emotional maturity to address the kind of themes ‘Hey Love’ does. The album is:
a heartrending love letter of hope and disarray and addresses the widest spectrum of love as its muse.
The album is out now and was performed and produced almost entirely by Hayden at his Toronto home studio, Skyscraper National Park. Additional recordings took place at Revolution Studio in Toronto with contributions from his live band featuring Jay McCarrol, Taylor Knox, and JJ Ipsen. The foursome have been on the road with the fabulous Dan Mangan + Blacksmith.
Coming with a generous thirteen songs they are definitely amongst Hayden’s most affective, tactile, rousing and focused works to date. The title track, ‘Hearts Just Beat’, is a languid number which sounds as if Hayden is singing this having just woken up, the drum beat keeping time with the aforementioned heart beat, his tender vocals singing “I don’t mean to blame love” as if ‘love’ is itself a living, breathing thing.
‘Troubled Times’ is a faster paced song with a sunny aspect and melody that doesn’t quite match the subject matter of impending doom. Hayden is very much wearing his heart on his sleeve and delivering lovely near falsetto vocals. ‘No Happy Birthday’ is another gentle song with understated instrumentation and really nice vocals again. Actually, the vocals from Hayden throughout the album are lovely – understated, smooth, emotive and worn with age and regret.
The 70s-sounding synth-heavy instrumental ‘Nothing Easy Feels This Good’ leads us into ‘Time Ain’t Slowing Down For Us’, a paean to living life and not getting to a point of looking back with regrets. The song almost fades out like time has finally slowed down.
‘Orange Curtain Light’ is another of the album’s slower songs with gentle piano accompaniment and breaks with a soft, lilting rhythym section. ‘Come Back to Life’ is a similarly gentle number with just Hayden and his guitar.
The album’s first single is the wonderful ‘Nowhere We Cannot Go’, a slowly building and ultimately euphoric song where the overall vibe is triumph; that triumph could be anything but on this number it is the triumph of love against adversity with Hayden imploring “hey, there’s something I need to bestow…there’s nowhere that you cannot go”.
The title track is a gentle song with some nice pedal steel adding a dreamy and fragile texture. The pedal steel continues on ‘If More Things Go Wrong’ and we are then treated to ‘Five Seasons’, a sub 3-minute ballad with a simple piano arrangement and swelling strings elevating things just a little before a dirty guitar line (sounding as if coming from the house next door) takes us over the bridge. That dirty guitar makes a fuller appearance on ‘Just Come Out Tonight’ a sub 2-minute bluesy drone with repeated lyrics.
‘Hey Love’ closes with the album’s longest song – ‘Shelter’ – another ballad driven by pianos and synths and an infectious guitar break and more of Hayden’s beautifully fragile vocals almost hypnotic in their collective power.
‘Hey Love’ is like a musical scrapbook where the theme is love and the pages contain snippets of all its battles – won and lost, painful and beautiful – on which Hayden has delivered a consistent narrative and musical vision. Hayden is an artist with vision and the talent to execute it.
‘Hey Love’ Tracklist
Hearts Just Beat
No Happy Birthday
Nothing Easy Feels This Good
Time Ain’t Slowing Down For Us
Orange Curtain Light
Come Back to Life
Nowhere We Cannot Go
If More Things Go Wrong
Just Come Out Tonight