Doo-Bop

Toronto's Hayden (nee paul Hayden Dresser) made quite the splash in 1995 with Everything I Long For, a collection of spare, deeply personal songs that he recorded on a four-track in his bedroom at his parents' house. For his second album, The Closer I Get, Hayden recorded in six different studios and played sixteen instruments, but the sparseness remains. Hell, even his gravelly baritone is low-fi.

The songs on The Closer I Get, like those on its predecessor, are gentle, meditative tunes about life's ordinary moments, but this go 'round is more melodious and more varied. Most of the time, that is: "Memphis" drones on interminably, and "The Hazards of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees" (inexplicably the first single) chugs along monotonously before petering out. Usually, however, when his songs start to go gray, Hayden slips in some strings or harmonica or banjo to sweeten things up. The melancholy "Nights Like These" is easily the album's standout track, with its quiet, lovely melding of piano, strings and Hayden's moving lyrics about loneliness, which effectively tap into the sadness in all of us that's just a few beers away. "You Are All I Have" is another beauty, a woeful, simple tune that sounds like a lullaby but has lyrics like "You are all I have/If you go away, I don't think I will survive/ I'll wait outside the front door till you arrive." "Bullet" is also appealingly bleak: "It makes sense to forget what it takes," sings Hayden mournfully, reaching for the harmonica. Play The Closer I Get at three in the morning while watching TV with the sound off.