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Music / Hayden

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Hayden (born Paul Hayden Desser, February 12, 1971) is a Canadian indie musician from Thornhill, Ontario, known primarily for his rock/folk music and an eclectic, alternative sound that helped fuel his career in The '90s.

Initially discovered through a Canadian radio station "new music" search, Hayden shot to prominence after releasing his first full-length album, Everything I Long For. The eclectic folk/rock hybrid caused a major label bidding war and resulted in the artist signing with one of Geffen Records' subsidaries, Outpost Records, for $1 million dollars. He also performed the title track for the 1996 Steve Buscemi-directed film Trees Lounge, and on tours with Neil Young.

His follow-up album, The Closer I Get, failed to ignite enough critical and commercial interest. Coupled with the dissolution of Outpost in the late 90's due to waning sales, Hayden decided to strike out on his own and release music under his own independent record label, Hardwood Music. Several more albums followed, including 2001's Skyscraper National Park, a Live Album recorded at the University of Toronto's Convocation Hall and others.

Hayden himself garnered a mystique for being very reclusive and insular, to the point that he was mistakenly believed to be dead after not doing any publicity, promotion or touring for the release of 2009's The Place Where We Lived. His reaction to this erroneous news was to sign with Arts & Crafts Records for the release of his 2013 album Us Alone, which deals with maturity and experiences being the father of a newborn daughter, and was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize.


  • In September (EP) (1994)
  • Everything I Long For (1995)
  • Moving Careful (EP) (1996)
  • The Closer I Get (1998)
  • Skyscraper National Park (2001)
  • Live at Convocation Hall (2002)
  • Elk-Lake Serenade (2004)
  • In Field & Town (2008)
  • The Place Where We Lived (2009, last release with Hardwood Music)
  • Us Alone (2013, first release with Arts & Crafts)

Tropes associated with Hayden and his music include:

  • Age Lift: For the release of In Field & Town, Hayden modified the lyrics of "Bad As They Seem" to change the age of the unnamed girl he's lusting after from 16 to 23.
  • The Alcoholic: The narrator in "Trees Lounge" (and obvious, considering it's the title track for the film of the same name).
  • Animal Motifs: An moose appears as the cover image for Skyscraper National Park, and the following album is titled Elk-Lake Serenade.
  • Break-Up Song: "Damn This Feeling" and "Let's Break Up".
  • Continuity Nod: "Almost Everything" is a direct response to the title of his first official album, Everything I Long For.
  • Dress Hits Floor: In "Starting Over", the narrator tells the woman to "drop your skirt down past your knees".
  • Driven to Suicide: In "Bass Song", the narrator hangs himself with the strap of his guitar in his home.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: "Trees Lounge" and "Home by Saturday", among others.
  • Gallows Humor: The ending of "When This Is Over", where the narrator explains that when he and his brother are found in their pajamas in the drowned car, the people will conclude that it was just "a big mistake".
  • Grief Song:
    • Several, including "Killbear", "1939" and "Memphis" (the latter of which is the singer's thoughts on Elvis Presley's death)
    • "Instructions" has the singer muse over how he'd like to be buried and how people should celebrate his life (namely, scatter his ashes from a dock and burn all of his personal notebooks).
  • How We Got Here: "The Van Song", which details the narrator recounting the events that led to him meeting his girlfriend..
  • Humiliation Conga: The man in "Bad As They Seem", who is in a hopeless life situation (and infatuated with the underage daughter of his neighbour down the street), works at the same place where he worked as a teenager (and makes less), and resigns himself to live in his parents' house until he's "at least 43".
  • Intercourse with You: "Middle of July" and "Starting Over", among others.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: From "In September":
    I don't want you, calling me up at two,
    Just to tell me that some guy you met who, while at a party,
    Came just looking at you
  • Karma Houdini: The man in "Hollywood Ending" gets away with killing a man and his two lovers (on the advice of an actress who compels him to take action), and the cops who visit him at the end aren't there to arrest him - they're just letting him know that a movie is being filmed nearby (even when he tries to confess to the crime).
  • The Lost Lenore:
    • "Killbear", which deals with a man feeling guilt over not being around to save his ex-girlfriend when she was attacked and killed by a bear up north.
    • "1939" has a man consumed with guilt after he finds out that a girl he let in his house (where she once lived) to take a bath drowned as a result.
  • New Sound Album: Skyscraper National Park was the first to infuse alt-country elements into his previously folk/rock melodies.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The man in "Lonely Security Guard" assumes that the titular guard isn't doing his job properly because he never stops watching the ground. He's later proven to be very wrong when the guard makes an origami sword and knocks him to the ground when he tries to steal something.
  • Obsession Song: Several, most notably "Bad As They Seem", where the narrator calls the 16-year old daughter of his neighbour (who he may also be lusting after) the "girl of his dreams".
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • "When This Is Over", where the narrator explains his last moments with his brother while they're strapped into their mother's car, being driven by her boyfriend into a lake.
    • "Street Car": The narrator (thinking of his girlfriend leaving him) gets this when he's speeding home and doesn't brake in time when a street car stops in front of him on the road.
  • Performance Video: "Trees Lounge", crossing over with Video Full of Film Clips.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me:
    • Several early songs focus on him begging a woman to stay with him after botching their relationship.
    • Discussed in "My Wife". The narrator has to tell his wife's ex-husband to stay away from his family, despite his attempts to bring himself back into their lives.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • At the end of "Street Car", the narrator mentions how he didn't stop when a streetcar in front of him suddenly brakes, and mentions "I fucked up".
    • The last line of "Starting Over".
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Us Alone gets many of its themes and topics from Hayden's experiences as an older man and the (then-recent) birth of his daughter.
  • Road Trip Plot: "Dynamite Walls".
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Motel".
      I can't go on pretending this song is about old lovers born to run.
    • Skyscraper National Park is a reference to the title of a story by Kurt Vonnegut.
  • The Sleepless: In the "Dynamite Walls" video, Hayden becomes incredibly tired and hallucinates while driving his band's tour van for hours on end.
  • Tempting Fate: The man in "Lonely Security Guard" attempts to steal something from a store after watching a morose security guard, only to be effortlessly beaten down when the guard makes a paper sword and beats him down.
  • Textless Album Cover: Skyscraper National Park, which has a picture of an elk on a blank brown cover.