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Hayden Proves 'Worthy' of Rediscovery

Back in the '90s, Canadian alt-folk singer Hayden was signed to a major label for a reportedly large sum; in the aftermath of Beck, and to some extent Sebadoh, the world seemed open to idiosyncratic singer-songwriters who came from the indie world. But pop success never happened for Hayden, who eventually parted ways with the majors and returned to the indie world.

To some degree, "Worthy of Your Esteem," from his new album In Field & Town, demonstrates why Hayden was never meant to be a Beck-level star. The arrangement is pure bedroom-tapes quality, and he still sings in an unassuming, plaintive voice that approaches a mumble.

Yet the song, with its chugging melody and insinuating synthesizer line, retains the beguiling charm of his early work. It's a putdown of someone who's "sweet 16 at 33" and ignoring his advances. (She'll probably only pay attention to the aliens who eventually visit our planet, he figures.) Hayden sounds more resigned than spiteful, more accepting than bitter. Such small gestures will probably continue to keep him off pop radio, but anyone who appreciates nuance in pop should find the song worthy in its own right.

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David Browne
David Browne is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone and the author of Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth and Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Spin and other outlets.