The Place Where We Lived
True story: I'm in a record store recently when an American dude tells me he thinks that Hayden's music is weird. How so? "Well, um, he's, you know, free-flowing." Free-flowing. Weird. Marilyn Manson and Michael Jackson, look out, here comes the crazy, shy troubadour, going bonkers with his fluid, brokenhearted introversion.
Toronto's Hayden Desser does have his moments: On 2004's Elk-Lake Serenade , he vividly imagined an old lover's demise at the paws of a killer bear; on this new album, the hand-clapped, piano-pounding Disappear has Hayden calmly thinking wicked thoughts, involving secrets that should have never got out. (Hayden could tell you those secrets, but then he'd have to kill you too.)But his peculiarity has more to do with his murmuring vocals and runny presentation, which is what you'll hear on The Place Where We Lived .
Hayden's sixth long-player, a quick turnaround from last year's In Field & Town , is an unfussy record, even though the reclusive sad sack brings on an outside producer (his friend Howie Beck) for the first time since 1998's The Closer I Get . The press sheet describes The Place Where We Lived as a combination of new songs and songs refound that is "never laboured" and "one of his best works to date." The former assessment is closer to the mark than the latter. Certainly, this poetic, nicely packaged CD doesn't have the memorable songs of Elk-Lake Serenade .
It does have a serenade: Message from London - "You lifted my blue, passing the phone around the room … you need to come home soon" - starts as a dozily strummed Tom Petty-like tune that breaks open with upbeat brass and spirited humming.
Living Grows on You would be one of those refound numbers - it comes from the 2003 Denys Arcand film about morality, The Barbarian Invasions , and it is suitably ephemeral.
Indeed, the record's overall theme is one of transience, from the homesickness of the lightly shuffled, piano-dappled title track to the waltzing Never Lonely , where Hayden put on a brave face -"I drink for free, and the girls come to me" - but we're not convinced he's over an ex.
The thing is, Hayden never does seem to get over his broken relationships. And, really, there's nothing so weird about that.