Despite being Canadian Hayden has mostly eluded me. (And I’ve, um, seen him live. Seriously.) I don’t know why but I’ve just never taken the time to listen to his albums. I’ve heard some of his songs at friend’s places and, yes, I’ve seen him at a festival. But I’ve never paid much attention and the closest I’ve come to knowing much about him is that my brother used to live on the same street as he did. I wasn’t even going to listen to this until two people I trust told me I should discuss it on the show. So here we are.
The little I can remember of hearing his music tells me that this is a little different than his later music, if only in his delivery and the rough-hewn nature of the record. But I am just guessing of course.
Hayden has a pretty good sense of melody. The record needs to be catchy – because of his delivery and because of the aesthetic – and it is.
The lyrics – well I’m not sure I’m sold on them yet. It’s confessional and it’s super influenced by grunge – i.e. it’s a the kind of confessional songwriting I’d associate more with grunge than with folk music. (The voice doesn’t help.) Honestly it would take me some time to really think about him as a lyricist. But early records are not really the best place to truly judge a songwriter’s lyrics, anyway.
The surprise for me is how rocky this is. When I saw him he was a guy with an acoustic guitar. I’m pretty sure most songs of his I’ve heard were pretty “folky”. But this is, at times, pretty grungy, pretty rocky. It caught me off card. That’s a good thing.
But the big problem, as others have noted, is the vocal delivery: it is completely of its time and very, very grunge. It’s like he’s imitating more than one of the main grunge singers at once, and he doesn’t have the pipes to compete with the best of them. I can honestly tell you I didn’t know he sang like this. I think he probably doesn’t any more. (My memory of seeing him live in the last five years is that he doesn’t’ sing like this any more.) It’s super distracting and one reason why I have trouble listening really hard to the lyrics. (Occasionally he’ll actually sing and you’re thinking “Hey, why don’t you do that more often?!?!”)
For a low-budget record the sound is pretty good and I have no complaints on the production side of things. It sounds a little lo fi but not enough to scare anyone away.
But I think I can’t get over the voice.