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Toronto's Hayden Desser spent the bulk of two decades creating uniquely affecting music through a combination of rock and folk flourishes, personal sentiments, and a voice that channeled both the falsetto highs of Neil Young and the wavering raspy low tones of Leonard Cohen. The critically acclaimed musician first appeared in the early '90s, armed with only a four-track tape recorder like his heroes in Sebadoh and Pavement. Coupling his unnaturally low range with an extremely detuned guitar, Hayden recorded a self-released cassette, In September, in 1994, and much of the material included evolved into his first official LP, Everything I Long For. Released in 1995 on his own imprint, Hardwood Records, the debut disc was simultaneously beautiful and horrifying, with insights into the humanly mundane as well as more troubling tales that retained an oddly personal edge. A few lucky breaks, including a U.S. tour with Guided by Voices and some MTV airplay, brought Hayden further into the spotlight and generated enough interest for the disc to be reissued by Outpost Recordings, an offshoot of Geffen Records. Over the next few years, Hayden remained remarkably productive, issuing a slew of indie singles and EPs that have since become out of print collectors' items. The year 1996 saw the release of the four-song Mild and Hazy 7" (Hardwood Recordings), which included a thunderous cover of the Pixies' classic "Gouge Away," as well as a hard to find split 7", Lunar Landing Confirmed, whose track list also featured Canadian cohorts Poledo. Two Poledo members, Mitch Roth and Kid Lunch (aka Joshua Malinsky), went on to become fixtures of Hayden's touring and recording band. Meanwhile, Hayden was also featured on the soundtrack to the 1996 Steve Buscemi-directed film Trees Lounge, for which he provided the moody but decidedly rocking title track. Hayden ushered in 1997 with yet another 7", Carry on Mentality, on the Canadian label Landspeed Records. The same year also saw the release of the singer/songwriter's first EP, Moving Careful (Sonic Unyon Records/Hardwood Records). A fitting continuation of the first LP, Moving Careful was a mostly acoustic, eight-song outing that continued the Hayden tradition of finding haunting beauty and heartbreak in things as simple as a haircut or a shared cigarette. As the year closed out, the artist began working on his second LP, which would represent both a mild stylistic divergence and the beginning of a series of unfortunate events. The Closer I Get, released by Outpost in 1998, was Hayden's first international release, as well as his first completely major-label outing. The record was a slight shift from his past efforts and featured a full band on most tracks, along with a more rock-oriented feel in comparison to his earlier folky efforts. The first single, the drum machine-powered "The Hazards of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees," received modest airplay, and touring stints with Juliana Hatfield and the Tragically Hip brought Hayden to a slightly larger audience -- but as critical applause and adoration from his disarmingly loyal fans increased, major commercial success continued to elude him. Within the next year, Outpost was dissolved and Hayden was dropped from the Geffen imprint altogether. Over the next few years, he disappeared from the public eye and was rarely seen outside of his hometown. An absence of new material was disheartening, but despite his reclusive status, a growing Internet fan base kept hope alive and waited patiently to hear anything at all. A few mysterious rumblings began in early 2001, and by the middle of the year it was announced that Hayden was at work in his home studio on some type of new recording. One hundred handmade copies of Skyscraper National Park, Hayden's third full-length album, surfaced at the end of the summer -- and based on the instant buzz, a second limited-edition run of 1,500 was created for a short Canadian tour that fall. Despite his long absence, the shows were a series of well-received and mostly sold-out affairs, and the disc's second pressing disappeared almost as quickly as the first. With such positive feedback welcoming him back to the music scene, Hayden was finally persuaded to release the record to a wide audience through the now Universal-distributed Hardwood Records in October 2001. The 11-track disc aligned itself with his quieter early material, albeit with a newfound sense of playful happiness and a greater reliance on the higher-range vocals that were previously avoided. In 2002, Hayden switched his label alliances to Badman and surfaced with a concert recording entitled Live from Convocation Hall. The double-disc record captured a sold-out stint in Toronto and included material from Hayden's three previous albums, as well as a cover of Neil Young's "Tell Me Why." His next studio recording, 2004's Elk-Lake Serenade, proved to be his best album to date, while 2008's In Field & Town saw him returning, once again, to his acoustic roots. In an uncharacteristic move, Hayden made a quick return to the studio, where he recorded The Place Where We Lived in time for a May 2009 release. The year 2013 saw the release of Us Alone, a relatively stripped-down and deeply personal collection of new songs. Much of 2014 was spent either on tour or hard at work on eighth album Hey Love. Recorded almost completely in his Toronto-based home studio, it shared a similarly confessional and melancholic tone as its predecessor. The album was released in early 2015 by Arts & Crafts. ~ Peter J. D'Angelo
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  1.   Song
  2.   Elk-Lake Serenade
  3.   The Closer I Get
  4.   Robbed Blind
  5.   Middle of July
  6.   Waiting for a Chance to See Her
  7.   Blurry Nights
  8.   Stem
  9.   Pots and Pans
  10.   Bad as They Seem
  11.   If More Things Go Wrong
  12.   Nowhere We Cannot Go
  13.   I Wake Up With Me
  14.   Rainy Saturday
  15.   Oh Memory
  16.   Just Give Me a Name
  17.   Worthy of Your Esteem
  18.   Starting Over
  19.   Wasting My Days Away
  20.   Trees Lounge
  21.   I'm to Blame
  22.   Skates
  23.   Hollywood Ending
  24.   Family Tree
  25.   Motel
  26.   Streetcar
  27.   In Field & Town
  28.   Steps Into Miles
  29.   When This Is Over
  30.   Happy Birthday Yesterday
  31.   Choking
  32.   We Don't Mind
  33.   Wildo
  34.   He Like It, She Like It
  35.   Just Come Out Tonight
  36.   Nothing Easy Feels This Good
  37.   Troubled Times
  38.   Almost Everything
  39.   A Fortune I'd Kept
  40.   Disappear
  41.   Barely Friends
  42.   Lonely Security Guard
  43.   Damn This Feeling
  44.   1939
  45.   My Wife
  46.   Roll Down That Wave
  47.   Don't Get Down
  48.   Through the Rads
  49.   Killbear
  50.   This Summer
  51.   Home by Saturday
  52.   Wide Eyes
  53.   Tell Me Why
  54.   Woody
  55.   I Don't Think We Should Ever Meet
  56.   Lullaby
  57.   Carried Away
  58.   Bass Song
  59.   All in One Move
  60.   Long Way Down
  61.   I Should Have Been Watching You
  62.   Dynamite Walls
  63.   You Are All I Have
  64.   Nights Like These
  65.   Between Us to Hold
  66.   Two Doors
  67.   The Hazards of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees
  68.   In September
  69.   No Happy Birthday
  70.   Did I Wake Up Beside You?
  71.   Hardly
  72.   Stride
  73.   You Were Loved
  74.   Hey Love
  75.   Better off Inside
  76.   Driveway
  77.   Holster
  78.   Looking Back to Me
  79.   Weight of the World
  80.   The Van Song
  81.   Assignment in Space With Rip Foster
  82.   Time Ain't Slowing Down For Us
  83.   Five Seasons
  84.   Where and When
  85.   Orange Curtain Light
  86.   Shelter
  87.   Come Back To Life
  88.   Old Dreams
  89.   Instructions
  90.   Tragedy
  91.   My Parent's House
  92.   Hearts Just Beat
  93.   More Than Alive
  94.   The Hardest Part