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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.   Long Way Down
  3.   Assignment in Space With Rip Foster
  4.   Bad as They Seem
  5.   In Field & Town
  6.   Home by Saturday
  7.   All in One Move
  8.   Waiting for a Chance to See Her
  9.   Through the Rads
  10.   Happy Birthday Yesterday
  11.   Steps Into Miles
  12.   Stem
  13.   Shelter
  14.   Hey Love
  15.   Choking
  16.   Disappear
  17.   Tragedy
  18.   Family Tree
  19.   Nowhere We Cannot Go
  20.   More Than Alive
  21.   We Don't Mind
  22.   Wildo
  23.   No Happy Birthday
  24.   Hearts Just Beat
  25.   Almost Everything
  26.   Old Dreams
  27.   Just Give Me a Name
  28.   A Fortune I'd Kept
  29.   Barely Friends
  30.   Lonely Security Guard
  31.   Weight of the World
  32.   Did I Wake Up Beside You?
  33.   Damn This Feeling
  34.   Looking Back to Me
  35.   Elk-Lake Serenade
  36.   1939
  37.   My Wife
  38.   Roll Down That Wave
  39.   Don't Get Down
  40.   Starting Over
  41.   Killbear
  42.   Robbed Blind
  43.   This Summer
  44.   Wide Eyes
  45.   Holster
  46.   Tell Me Why
  47.   Woody
  48.   Lullaby
  49.   Carried Away
  50.   Bass Song
  51.   I Should Have Been Watching You
  52.   Streetcar
  53.   Middle of July
  54.   You Are All I Have
  55.   Nights Like These
  56.   Better off Inside
  57.   Between Us to Hold
  58.   Two Doors
  59.   The Hazards of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees
  60.   Trees Lounge
  61.   When This Is Over
  62.   You Were Loved
  63.   I'm to Blame
  64.   Pots and Pans
  65.   If More Things Go Wrong
  66.   Troubled Times
  67.   Hardly
  68.   Time Ain't Slowing Down For Us
  69.   Worthy of Your Esteem
  70.   Instructions
  71.   Driveway
  72.   Just Come Out Tonight
  73.   I Wake Up With Me
  74.   Skates
  75.   The Van Song
  76.   The Hardest Part
  77.   Stride
  78.   Oh Memory
  79.   The Closer I Get
  80.   Where and When
  81.   Nothing Easy Feels This Good
  82.   My Parent's House
  83.   In September
  84.   Hollywood Ending
  85.   Five Seasons
  86.   Motel
  87.   Wasting My Days Away
  88.   Blurry Nights
  89.   I Don't Think We Should Ever Meet
  90.   Dynamite Walls
  91.   Rainy Saturday
  92.   Orange Curtain Light
  93.   He Like It, She Like It
  94.   Come Back To Life