Album Review: Hayden, Us Alone
Toronto's Hayden rose to prominence in the 1990s with a string of critically acclaimed records and lots of industry buzz. Since then, he's turned into a bit of a recluse; he didn't actually tour or do any press for his last record, 2009's The Place Where We Lived. We got a chance to check out some of this material back in December at Jason Collett's Basement Revue, but needless to say, while it may have only been four years, it's felt like a lifetime to many Hayden fans. The release of Us Alone marks his return, and what a return it is.
Us Alone opens with "Motel," and we find the singer driving his infant daughter around in order to get her to fall asleep. While doing so, he's forced to admit that he "can't go on pretending this song / is about young lovers, born to run / when it's so clearly about you and me." It's a song about parenthood, but also about the realization that adulthood--where actions have consequences, and things rarely turn out the way one would wish--is at last, and inescapably, upon you.
The record is a beautiful collection of stories, which are bare and almost universally compelling. Obviously, it'd be a mistake to infer too much into any possibly-autobiographical touches--although there's not much room for ambiguity in lines like "But I'm recording once again / While my kid is upstairs in bed / And I admit that now and then / That some nights when I'm strumming or maybe just jumpy / And music is still everything / Well, almost everything." (That's from "Almost Everything," by the way.)
There's already a video for the first single, "Rainy Saturday," featuring a fussing infant, some viral car wash advertising and one really sweet toque.
Other songs, though (I'm thinking "Just Give Me A Name"), work more as reflections on partnership in all its difficulties and its impossibilities. The record works as a slow kind of heartbreak, but a beautiful one, for sure. There are some beautiful instrumental moments, such as in "Instructions," which ends without a resolution, leaving the audience hanging. The guitars are covered in slow tremolo throughout the record, lending a dreamlike, reflective quality to the album.
Us Alone is as dense and subtle a record as you'll find, its meaning unfolding endlessly as you listen again and again. Look for this on best-of-2013 lists come next December.
What? It's not too early for that sort of prophesying, is it?
Hayden's playing a short string of shows next week to promote the record: February 20th at the Dakota Tavern, the 21st at the Cameron House and the 22nd at the Rivoli. Now, the other two shows will be incredibly intimate just because of the choice of venue, but the Rivoli gig will be the only one he's playing with Lou Canon (who sings guest vocals on "Blurry Nights,") so I'm sure there are people to whom it made sense to buy tickets to more than one night.
Unfortunately, the most up-to-date information we have indicates all 3 dates are sold out, but if you have any friends who are Hayden fans, now you'll know where they'll be on the 20th, 21st and 22nd.
Us Alone is available online at GalleryAC as well as just about all your local record shops. Soundscapes does have a nifty window display up, though. Just sayin'.
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