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