Home Read Classic Album Review: Hayden | Elk-Lake Serenade

Classic Album Review: Hayden | Elk-Lake Serenade

The troubadour takes a trip over to the dark side on his fifth full-length release.

This came out in 2004 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I used to think Hayden Desser was just another harmless singer-songwriter. With his fifth full-length Elk-Lake Serenade, however, he’s kinda starting to freak me out a little.

Not musically; the mush-mouthed Toronto troubadour still favours rustic settings, beautifully bittersweet piano ballads and strummy, slackerish folk-rock reminiscent of acoustic Neil Young or Nick Drake. Lyrically, though, the deceptively titled Elk-Lake Serenade is closer to Tales From The Dark Side. In Killbear, an ex-lover is mauled to death while camping with her cowardly new boyfriend; Hollywood Ending is a bizarre tale of fandom and murder; in 1939, a man is visited by the ghost of a woman who died in his home decades ago; in Looking Back At Me, a driver comes upon a grisly highway accident involving a family whose car he had been following. Not all these 15 tracks are so dark — Hayden still finds plenty of room to write about love and his cats and summer and travelling. Even so, after Elk-Lake Serenade, I’m not going to be going camping with him anytime soon.