Skyscraper National Park
/badman; 2002/

rating : 8.5



more info:

If you're a maniac record buyer I don't need to tell you what kind of music this is. A quick look at the cover will be enough for you to guess that this is Canadian lo-fi folk/rock. I like the red moose. I like everything red. 

This is beautiful honest music sung and played by a guy who's got his feet on the ground. The only thing that could frighten you is that he's Canadian. But, really, it sounds great. It's too delicate to be lumberjack music and too humble to be cabaret music. The humble restraint is one of the things that makes me like this a lot. The problem with songwriters is that you have to listen to the songs a lot of times to let them grow on you. You have to deserve it and since I've been quite in a hurry for the last couple of months I never had/took the time to listen to that kind of music. And right now I'm listening to Hayden and it feels good to listen to something less fashionable and urgent than, say, the Liars. 

The album starts with a beautiful delicate song, Streetcar, which sets the mood in a perfect way : Parked underground the night you left/ It took me an hour and a half/ To find my way back up above/ There's nothing up there without your love. Dynamite Walls starts where Streetcar ends. Miles away/ just up ahead/ it doesn't matter what/ any of us is looking for/ we'll never find it because/  it's not even there. It carefully rises and then an angry saxophone joins and leads the song into cacophonous bliss. Then it calms down and Hayden quietly finishes his song.

Something some songwriters seem to have troubles to understand is that the songs sounds better when they're bare. Take Beck for example. Sea Change wouldn't suck that much if it had been recorded on a four track tape recorder. When I listen to Skyscraper National Park I feel Hayden Desser really close to me, he sings just for me, tells me about his troubles and reflects mine. Three short tracks follow the gorgeous Steps into Miles : the delicate bittersweet I Should Have Been Watching You, the superfluous Tea Pad and the almost-cheerful All In One Move, which reminds me of Elliott Smith, even though that's an expectable comparison. 

The day after the storm/ I didn't leave the house at all... Bass Song is a depressed and scorched moving piece ending with beautiful strings delicately arranged and genuinely moving. Carried Away is upbeat but its intricate sadness prevents it from turning into a merry bar anthem.  

There's one line in Looking for You in Me that sums the whole album atmosphere pretty well : Why was I so surprised ?/ I opened my eyes to see/ Summer for you and me. It features a lovely solo and Hayden's voice almost falling apart. The album closer, Lullaby is a slow song and every single chord played on the guitar is more moving than most of the music I've heard this year, the horns underline the song and turn it into a brilliant closer. Canada really sounds like a cold place to live in when you're lonely.

-Barbara H

/dec 1st 2002/