Friday, March 3rd |
Maxwell's, 1039 Washington St, Hoboken, NJ
The Smoking Popes
Wednesday, March 15
Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard St, NYC
w/ The Bats / Mad Scene
Saturday, March 18
Antone's, 215 W15th St, Austin, TX
Annie Hayden used to be in a band called Spent. They made quiet, jangly indie-pop for Merge Records from 1995 through 1997 then broke up in 1998 in unhappy acceptance of their own commercial inviability. A small tragedy because they were among the finest bands in their particular little genre, forming a sort of stylistic bridge between label mates the Magnetic Fields and Superchunk. Now Annie Hayden is solo, which begs the question asked of all those going it alone: Can she carry an entire album herself? Well, her first solo album, The Rub, is more consistent, more coherent, and just as good as any of her Spent records. Apparently she can. In some ways Hayden's style has changed very little over the years. The breezy pop of Spent's 1997 "Good Luck Line" segues neatly into the breezy pop of "Start a Little Late"; "Stumble Up the Stairs", another Hayden composition from her Spent years, is echoed on the new record by "Sign of Your Love". But there are also innovations, or maybe just areas that couldn't be explored in a band with three songwriters. The "Land of Nod" sounds strangely like something off of Lou Reed's under-appreciated 1992 album, Passion and Warfare. "Wood and Glue" is a take on Belle and Sebastian that sounds fresher today than those durable Glaswegians of yesteryear. As a female lead guitarist with all the Claptonisms that implies Hayden is something of a rarity. Listening to "Guitar Lesson", one of the four six-string-heavy instrumental tracks on The Rub, confirms that she doesn't actually need any lessons herself. Hayden's playing is more about melody than firepower, but she can dish the licks with the best of them. Maybe the point is she's teaching the lessons. Guitar worship aside, Hayden has other strengths that are even less well appreciated. She's quite a songwriter for starters. Amazingly, her solo record has as much range as the Spent records, all of which were the work of three songwriters. She's also a great singer. True, her voice is a limited instrument -- she pretty much always sounds, for lack of a better term, girly -- but within her limitations she is capable of enormous creativity. Her ability to fashion melodies that are both pretty and rhythmically interesting calls to mind Rose Melberg of the Softies. The commercial possibilities for Hayden's brand of pop music are not much brighter now than when Spent broke up; the clamoring for new Spent records has been low at best. But maybe *The Rub* marks the beginning of a more sustainable way for Annie Hayden to make music: small recording budget, an informal "band" of friends, and minimal touring. If low-key is how it has to be then fine. It's great to have Annie Hayden back.
File under: Indie-Rock for Grown-Ups
Annie Hayden's sugary voice lies somewhere in between Liz Phair's and Bettie Serveert's Carol van Dijk's -- like a honey-dipped razor, it wouldn't hurt if you licked it, but there's a icy-cool sentiment hiding just beneath, equal parts stainless and stirring. Backed by impeccably sparse production and a little help from her friends, the Jersey Princess, who formerly fronted the mid-90s indie-outfit Spent, spins out unassuming, super-catchy, guitar pop -- even on the album's handful of instrumental numbers ("Guitar Lesson," "Pistol and Glasses"), Hayden proves she can say it just as well with her fingers. Unlike most underground rock these days, when Hayden wavers between wittily-worded longing ("I wish I had a cubicle / a moderate receptacle / from you I crave deliverance / exempt from more reconnaissance") and resigned heartache ("When I imagine your leaving, alone / Top-heavy eye-lids closing, alone / Don't know the story of love"), she keeps both feet firmly planted in the real world. Meaning you always know what she's singing about - cause you've been there, too.
- Beth Wawerna
from the Washington Post|
At heart, much of the music that came out of indie-rock's early-to-mid-'90s golden period was about immaturity. Irony-laden, too-smart-for-their-own-good bands like Pavement and Superchunk helped spearhead a movement based more on hanging with friends in tour vans and procrastinating on the payment of college loans than changing the world through song. It was a music born of recession and angst, predicated on the constant deferral of reality. How refreshing it is, then, to catch up with Annie Hayden, a first-generation indie-rock survivor and a sparkling songwriting talent, who spent the first half of the last decade in a college-radio staple band called Spent, and the second half tuning pianos for a living. "I need to be getting over" is the refrain of "Start a Little Late," the leadoff song on "The Rub," Hayden's first recorded material in nearly five years. Indeed, moving on, starting fresh and growing up seem to be the central themes of this brief, bewitching debut. "The Rub" is filled with equal parts humor, insecurity and resilience, and Hayden has an uncanny gift for mixing accessible, lilting melody with evocative, literate wordplay. The album is modest -- it clocks in at barely half an hour, and Hayden plays most of the instruments herself. Yet instead of retreading the past, her questions have focused and grown up along with her: When rock-and-roll dreams waver, is it so wrong to desire the stability of office life ("I wish I had a cubicle / The moderate receptacle") or to lust after the reassuring, yuppie aesthetic of Ikea ("Will I admit that I'd be grateful / For a custom concrete table?")? Hayden's most distinctive trait is a mellow, honey-flecked voice that's equal parts whiskey and wry. At times she sounds like a cross between fellow singer-songwriters Liz Phair and Aimee Mann. But, lacking the icy ferocity of the former and the detached wit of the latter, Hayden is a more familiar and sympathetic narrator. Carefully and with great skill, she infuses moments of supposed mundanity with the high drama of daily life. Whether she's singing about intoxication, breakups or a sudden flush of embarrassment, she does so with a quick eye and a steady heart, as in "Slip Is Showing": "While you were out for a cigarette / I hunkered over the letterhead / I spent the whole day righting this wrong." And while Hayden's subject matter may fly low to the ground, her lush instrumentation soars. With complex guitar plucking, occasional drumming and light flourishes of Mellotron, the album recalls the sterling pop of contemporaries Ivy and the Sea and Cake. But "The Rub" is looser -- bordering on countryish at times -- with unexpected quirks and depth lurking just behind its smooth exterior. On its strongest and most varied track, "Wood and Glue," a flickering guitar flirts with swelling horns, slowly building in intensity until it envelops the listener like a familiar scarf on a bracing night out. Even "Guitar Lesson," an instrumental number, is imbued with the same world-weary shimmer of her best lyrics. Propelled by a gently pulsing piano, the final track, "Lovely to See," is a warm ode to life's second chances, to old friends and new laughter. "Don't say goodbye yet," Hayden sings -- a fitting end to an infatuating album. - Andy Greenwald
from the Philadelphia Weekly
Here is the sort of warm, sophisticated folk-rock album that we've all been needing, if not to give meaning to our lives, then at least to assure us that all indie rock labels aren't intent on flooding the market with mediocre product. Annie Hayden, whose singing and songwriting talents were first displayed in the Jersey City outfit Spent, is content on her solo debut to let her songwriting speak for itself. Of The Rub's three instrumentals (a fourth is Peter Green's bluesy "Albatross"), there's a mood-directed flow of piano, acoustic guitar and violin. And when Hayden chooses to bring her lucid, bittersweet vocals to bear, it's to communicate any number of emotions - all of which are further complicated by the uneasy relationship with conventionality one would expect from an outside-New York City dweller. When a Mellotron appears on "Slip is Showing", it's not, as you might expect, for ready-made nostalgia, just as a cross-fertilization with Yo La Tengo-style guitar haze on the simmering "Red Lines" is more about tribute than imitation. The Rub reaches its musical and emotional peak with the final track, "Lovely to See", in which Hayden is helped out by her old Spent bandmates John King, Ed Radich and Joe Weston. The song's luscious sorrow recalls Emmylou Harris' tremulous delivery of Neil Young's "Wrecking Ball". And when you hear Hayden's piano curling around wistful rolls of guitar like an uncannily familiar stretch of road, you know there's not much else a song can do. -Elisa Ludwig
from Basement Life
If you're one of the far-too-few people out there who is wondering why the fuck Jersey City, NJ's Spent never earned the kind of recognition they deserved, you'll at least take a little comfort in knowing that the band's guitarist/singer Annie Hayden is still around. You can take even greater pleasure, however, in knowing not only that she's still around, but also that she's making heart-wrenchingly sincere beautiful music - and she's doing practically all of it by herself. Her solo debut, The Rub kicks off with "Start A Little Late," a light and airy acoustic number that employs just enough twang to call to mind briefly the work of Mary Lou Lord. The acoustic-based tracks like the opener and "Alone" might be the record's highest points, but the tracks that are helped along by mellotron, keyboards, and drums such as "Wood and Glue" are just as compelling. No matter what's going on around her, Hayden's voice is so beautiful that it almost seems impossible to focus on anything else. Her lyrics are well written, and her delivery is top-notch. We can only wonder why Spent never got more attention, and we can only hope that Annie Hayden and The Rub don't suffer the same fate. -mc
from The Onion
Just because a band breaks up, that doesn't mean it's gone for good. Spent never caught on the way Bedhead did, but many still miss the modest but talented band. The New Jersey outfit released just two albums before calling it quits, and though The Rub is credited to just one of Spent's three songwriters, Annie Hayden, the effort is a Spent member away from a full-fledged reunion. Sort of. Fellow Spent singer John King is here just credited with production, though Spent drummer Ed Radich plays on nearly every track. The Rub collects fresh writing, but the project springs to life from her familiar, sweet voice and bittersweet, Spent-style pastoral pop. Hayden plays everything but drums, and the beautiful album benefits from her focus. "Start A Little Late" features one of Hayden's winding guitar leads and a beguiling vocal melody, while "Wood And Glue" comes close to Simon And Garfunkel folk. A languid cover of (the old) Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross" is nothing but class, as well as an indication of Hayden's allegiance to California pop over Superchunk rock. From spare tracks like "Red Lines," "Slip Is Showing," and "Pistol And Glasses" to a final, teasing, piano-laden track recorded by Spent's full lineup (Hayden, King, Radich, and Joe Weston), The Rub is a pure pleasure, a welcome return from an underappreciated songwriter.-Joshua Klein
Virtually unheard from since her band Spent released its last album in 1996, Annie Hayden has resurfaced with a remarkably strong solo debut that effervesces with feminine wit and sharply devised melodies unlike anything since Liz Phair's Exile In Guyville. Though Hayden's not as thematically ambitious as Phair, her songs reflect a similar mix of intelligence and attitude. Spent's Ed Radich (drums) and John King (production) help out, but Hayden relies less on the rhythmic punch of her band than on subtler sonic touches, like the jazzy guitar chords in two of the disc's four charming instrumentals ("The Land of Nod" and "Guitar Lesson"). As a singer, Hayden shows considerable range, slipping into a near falsetto to accentuate a lyric in "Red Lines", singing mellifluously on the breezy "Sign of Your Love", and pushing her voice into torch territory on the closing ballad, "Lovely to See." And her lyrics are thoughtful and direct, as in the quick rhyme which seems to sum up her down-to-Earth philosophy: "Well I don't know what to say/Other than that life is overrated anyway." The emotional crest comes in the vibrant, winding love song "Wood And Glue," where a hook develops on trumpet and guitar, then expands with the addition of piano and mellotron, supporting without overshadowing the integral vocal melody. -Richard A. Martin
New Jersey singer/songwriter Annie Hayden, former female voice and multi-instrumentalist for Jersey City indie pop band Spent, releases her solo debut tomorrow on Merge records. Long anticipated by Spent's loyal fans (that band's critically acclaimed farewell release appeared five years ago), The Rub features Hayden along with fellow Spent founder John King and Spent drummer Ed Radich on a largely acoustic, slow-tempo, mostly straight-ahead folk record. No, there's not much extrinsic evidence of Spent's punkier side, although one song (Red Lines) features a bit of noise guitar. The primary textures on The Rub come from acoustic guitar & piano, mellotron, and Hayden's unadorned and enchantingly honest voice. The album also includes no less than four acoustic instrumentals. The real treat on The Rub is the songs, which, like Hayden's voice, are unassuming to the point of shyness but contain a treasure trove of delicate beauty that rewards repeated listening. The last song on the album, Lovely To See, is especially strong, with shimmering vocal harmonies and gorgeous instrumental interplay. The Rub is a record you can love.
from Philadelphia City Paper
Of the three songwriters toiling in Jersey Cityís Spent, Annie Hayden was by far the subtlest. Her stuff, unlike the punchier material filed by bandmates John King and Joe Weston, didnít end up on the groupís singles. Rather, her finely layered tunes, replete with near-subconscious melodic hooks, resonated in your head long after youíd re-shelved their LPs. The Rub, the defunct (circa 1996) indie-pop foursomeís first solo output, establishes multi-instrumentalist Hayden as much more than the bandís token girl. She plays nearly everything herself on 11 tracks and, with help from King (recording and mixing) and another ex-Spent Ed Radich (on drums), Hayden crafts a sound both reminiscent and removed. Free of her old bandís occasionally overstylized arrangements, The Rub offers dips of organic soul (plucking away on the instrumental "Pistol and Glasses"), a swipe of plaintive pining (the autumnal, country-tinged "Alone") and flowering introspection (the office drama "Slip is Showing"). Hayden is a model of balance, knowing when to let her delicate voice carry a song and when to let her music do the work; check the stirring mid-set "Wood and Glue," where a trumpet flare and catchy chorus mingle with a noodly guitar line and Mellotron. The title of Haydenís solo debut refers to problems or difficulty, but youíll find very little of either. -Brian Howard