Album Review: Hayden - Moving Careful + Rarities (20th Anniversary Reissue)

Lovers reuniting after time apart. A domestic disturbance heard through the paper-thin walls of an apartment complex. A new haircut. A couple splitting a pack of cigarettes.

These things—some banal, others not as much—are the things that Hayden Desser writes songs about. Or, at least, wrote songs about in the very early days of his lengthy career.

But first, an aside:

Hayden’s sophomore full length, The Closer I Get, and his only flirtation with a moderately major label (in the United States), is celebrating its 20th anniversary in two months—don’t worry, I’ll be tackling that sprawling and verbose commemorative thinkpiece very soon.

As of right now, it does not seem like Hayden has any grand plans for a reissue. The compact disc is practically out of print—though currently still available through his web store. Four years ago, for Record Store Day (in Canada), The Closer I Get was reissued in a very limited vinyl run—copies of it fetch over $100 on Discogs right now.

Two years ago, Hayden celebrated the 20th anniversary of his idiosyncratic debut, EverythingI Long For—reissuing it on vinyl, with a few extras tacked on at the end. In continuing with his look back at his earliest material, he recently reissued the EP Moving Careful, originally released in 1996—strangely being referred to as the 20th anniversary edition, it also includes an additional seven tracks pulled from various singles he released during this time period.

On the day Moving Careful went on sale to the general public, Hayden also put three copies (yes, only three copies) of three other, out of print albums in his web store—Skyscraper National Park, Everything I Long For, and The Closer I Get.

Three copies of each, on sale at 9 a.m. CST.

You know, for a second there, I thought I had it—I quickly added The Closer I Get, as well as Moving Careful to my cart. I was taken to the PayPal screen and was desperately trying to complete my transaction, but then, something went wrong. I was taken back to the web store shopping cart, and only Moving Careful was in it.

The Closer I Get was gone—sold out. Sold out from under me.

* * *

Moving Careful, while more of a compilation rather than a cohesive full-length, still mostly works as a whole because it is a snapshot of a specific time. It finds Hayden beginning moving away from the more quirky and abrasive elements that he explored on Everything I Long For, but he has yet to fill out the sound with more instrumentation, as he would do on The Closer I Get. The songs collected here are sparse, with just the right amount of being ‘off kilter,’ and often times they seem like they maybe on the verge of coming undone, like the early recording of “Stride,” though the songs never do wind up falling apart.

In his very early 20s when this material was written and recorded, some of the moments on Moving Careful are rather saccharine, like “Middle of July,” however, there are songs where it’s clear that Hayden was already on his way to hitting his stride as a songwriter, like the hushed and fragile opening track, “Pots and Pans,” and the dark and desperate pleading of Moving Careful’s final track, “You Are All I Have," which is, hands down, this collection's finest moment.

The additional seven tracks of this Moving Careful reissue are dubbed ‘Plus Rarities,’ and they all, for the most part, are cut from the same cloth as their counterparts. Some of them are incredibly short—giving off the feeling that they are more sketches or rough ideas, as opposed to a completed, or fully developed song.

Tracks like “Hazy” and “Winter Trip” also lean more toward the slightly abrasive, caustic aesthetic Hayden still worked within on some of Everything I Long For—while “A Fortune I’d Kept” and “Carry on Mentality” are exponentially more melodic and easier on the ears, and the collection’s closing track, “Wasting My Days Away,” finds the balance between the snarling dissonance and the whispered and acoustic folk.

Despite his spot on the soundtrack to Steve Buscemi’s Trees Lounge, and his brief stint on a Universal Records subsidiary, Hayden, to my knowledge, has not found much outside of a cult audience in the United States; though I get the impression that in his native Canada, he’s a much bigger deal. The cult-like status fits his music well, however—specifically a moderately fragile collection like Moving Careful. It’s not a very energetic listen, though it certainly doesn’t need to be, and Hayden has never been one to make consistently energetic music. Calling it ‘simple’ seems like you’re selling it short, but songs like this—sparse, void of trappings, et. al—allow the evocative nature of Hayen’s lyrics, whether they are about the mundane or not, to show through clearly.         

Moving Careful + Rarities is out now as a limited edition LP, via the man's own Hardwood Recordings.