A lot’s changed in the past two decades. An early-twenty-something myself, I’ve witnessed the rise of the Internet, iPhones, social media, and an evolving Middle East in my lifetime. If the world can change so much in a relatively short time, how much more do people change? Twenty years ago I was still getting acquainted with life! So a musician who was around my current age when he began releasing albums two decades ago could be expected to show some fairly dramatic differences.
Let’s look at the old and new of Canadian musician Paul Hayden Desser, who simply performs as Hayden. The first video below comes from his first album, Everything I Long For, which came out in 1995.
There’s something rather storied in that deep, gravelly acoustic sound, not to mention the distinctly old-school MTV look of the video itself. The album as a whole showcases some fine examples of alternative folk sounds, diverse rock and grunge-like elements, piano, and deeply involved lyrical songwriting throughout. If Everything had been released today, it would stand as an excellent piece on its own, a genre-fusion album that showcases the best that modern Americana has to offer.
For contrast, take a listen to “Nowhere We Cannot Go,” which comes from Hayden’s 2015 Hey Love.
The visuals speak for themselves as a great example of how Hayden depicts the classic American dream in conjunction with themes and lyrics that are somewhere between somber and bittersweet (a pattern we can see repeated in Troubled Times and other videos). Hayden’s overall sound has transitioned away from the Americana and folk elements that he previously highlighted in order to focus on low-key piano. While there’s certainly more pop present than in his earlier offerings, his career has allowed him to reach a more subtle blend of styles.