This is not the type of music that people visiting this site are used to hearing. In fact I'm not really sure what kind of music it is. I imagine this could be described as alternative folk rock. The basic sound of the whole CD is just a guy with a detuned guitar, a harmonica, some ancient recording equipment, and the weight of the world on his shoulders. Someone once said that Hayden represents the inherent melancholy and loneliness that is only two or three beers away in all of us. Hayden was fucking emo before emo was even a word. That idea definitely holds true for this entire album. Most of this is pretty fucking depressing. The man is a gifted songwriter however and this saves him from the pitfalls of typical alternative music's histrionic whining and bitching. Nothing on this record sounds like it is forced, and the lyrics by being intensely personal and narrative give the music a pervasive quality of honesty and raw emotion. Hayden Desser was basically playing proto emo before it was cool to write music like this.
The songs are mostly acoustic guitar tuned way the hell down to fit the mood and Desser's voice, accompanied by an occasional harmonica. No drums, no electric guitar, just one guy sitting in his bedroom with some 70s recording equipment and way too much free time on his hands. Effects are utilized rarely but when they appear they augment the mood of the music rather than distracting from it. The echo laden guitar on Tragedy adds additional emotional resonance to a very dark song, the sound of a TV in an empty room at the end of Lounging conveys a real tangible sense of isolation and solitude, and the detuned scratching of the strings on You Were Loved sounds like the guitar deconstructing itself to the music. The tone of the cd for the most part is quiet and reflective, slow and deliberate. However there are occasions where the music picks up tones of anger or despair and the riffing becomes furious and hard. There are a few songs like this on the disc, such as Skates, In September, and When This Is Over which switch moods rapidly, and the music becomes very unsettling very quickly. This is one of the better aspects of the disc because it keeps the music unpredictable and conveys the sense of real emotion rather than just tailoring a song to a certain sound.
Hayden's voice is powerful and raw. He has an unnaturally low gravely baritone with an unsteady delivery that is perfectly suited to the sound of this music. When the music is slow and sad it sounds like Eddie Vedder inhaled some nitrous oxide. When the music is angry he actually sounds a bit like Kurt Cobain or Neil Young. He has that unstable adnoid intensive warble to his voice that characterized both of those singers. The narratives of the songs mostly have to do with love and loss, wasted opportunities, and regret. Edgar Allan Poe once wrote that "Either the memories of past bliss are the anguish of today, or the agonies which are have their origins in the ecstasies which might have been". That pretty much sums up Hayden's outlook on life. In My Parent's House he recalls happy memories with an ex-girlfriend but with the constant undercurrent of regret that those times are gone and those things will never be the same again. In Hardly he's ruminating on not having the courage to talk to a girl at a diner and missing the opportunity of a life with her that will never happen because he lacked the courage. And Skates is one of the most depressing songs ever fucking written. It's about a guy whose wife drowned behind his house. He can't swim so he is buying ice skates so he can visit her when winter comes. Shit like this is a good advertisement for anti-depressant medication. The skill of the narrative and the raw pained emotion of the delivery saves the record from coming off as contrived. The record is not all depressing however. There are also songs such as We Don't Mind in which a rainstorm traps Hayden and his woman in a phone booth together and they spend the day together like that. The man has a gift for finding unique beauty and artistic resonance in everyday occurrences like these. Desser has some interesting ideas musically and a very powerful way of applying those ideas. He has the ability to take a bare essentials style of music and fill it out completely just by the emotion and conviction he pours into the music. This may not be my usual style, but Hayden definitely retains indie cred in my book and is an original and gifted songwriter. This is highly recommended.* * * * Reviewed: June, 2002