Recording information: Skyscraper National Park (09/2003-03/2004).
The follow-up to his lauded SKYSCRAPER NATIONAL PARK, 2004's ELK-LAKE SERENADE finds Canadian singer/songwriter Hayden hitting a creative stride. Here the atmospheric expanse of SKYSCRAPER is scaled back to form catchier, tighter melodies that reveal themselves in a collection of memorably narrative songs. "Wide Eyes" drifts in with a spare piano-and-strings-based arrangement, conveying both heartbreak and newfound love in its lyrics. Relationships, both good and bad, are a central theme to many of SERENADE's tunes, and Hayden imbues these tales with his wry wit, particularly on the upbeat "Hollywood Ending," which finds the narrator in a surprise encounter with a beautiful movie star.
Hayden has been compared to Beck and Neil Young in the past, and although he shares some common ground with the folkier territories of both artists, he truly settles into his own musical identity on ELK-LAKE SERENADE. As on SKYSCRAPER, Hayden plays a majority of the instruments--including guitar, bass, and piano--but here his songwriting has reached new, breathtaking heights. SERENADE's rustic artwork perfectly complements the album's beautiful, laid-back nature; this is one of 2004's finest under-the-radar albums.
Q (p.119) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Desser tells his off-kilter tales with a wry eye, but when he seeks the emotional jugular, he usually finds it."
Uncut (p.102) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[The] melodies and deadpan delivery occupy their own peculiar kingdom."
Magnet (p.96) - "[T]he slowly picked guitar, the detailed songwriting, the harmonica and the intriguing, plain-spoken lyrics are all here."
CMJ (p.4) - "ELK-LAKE SERENADE finds him on a first-time confidence streak, effortlessly breezing through 15 tracks with only a few hints of his old shyness."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.110) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[T]hese poetic little vignettes move with a masterful deftness. Wringing a spectrum of emotions from his poignant observations, Hayden's delicate little songs are potent, precious things indeed."