Sound — 8
The latest release from Secondhand Serenade, "Hear Me Now" is the third studio album for singer/songwriter John Vesely. Vesely originally signed with Glassnote in 2006 after coveting the top spot on MySpace's Unsigned Artist's chart. The label soon after re-released Vesely's acoustic effort, "Awake". In 2008, Secondhand Serenade returned with "A Twist In My Story". The album had a more rounded out sound, with the help from a full band. It's first single, "Fall For You", was a huge success. It was a platinum-certified top 10 CHR Top 40 hit, as well as hitting No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. The latest album was produced by Aaron Johnson, who has worked with The Fray, Vesely, as well as Secondhand Serenade drummer Tom Breyfogle. The album was mixed by Mark Endert, who has worked with bands Maroon 5 and Train. The first couple of songs on the album "Distance" and lead single, "Something More", have a similar vibe to "A Twist In My Story". They make a good bridge from the last album to the new one. When track three, "Stay Away" starts playing, it becomes apparent to the listening audience that they are hearing a new musical side to Secondhand Serenade. The song shows the subtle changes made to Secondhand Serenade's sound. It starts slow, but by the chorus it has a rockin' upbeat that you can't help, but jam out to. Probably the best track on the album is "You And I". It is so different from both previous Secondhand Serenade albums. The melody is really upbeat and fun, with a bit of a pop feel to it. I can see a track like "So Long" being a fun sing-a-long when performed live. It's another upbeat track on the album that makes this latest album stand out. On the flip side, there are a couple of fantastic ballads, "Nightmares" and "World Turns". Both songs have that classic Vesely feel to them, and his distinct voice makes both songs so emotionally powerful. The final song on the album is the title track, "Hear Me Now". What is great about this song and the album as a whole, is that the songwriting is superb. "Hear Me Now" is beautifully written. Vesely definitely has a way with words, and he displays his talent exquisitely on this song. The songs on this album have such a poetic feel to them. The lyrics show that Vesely has a talent for storytelling within his music. In his press release Vesely said, "I pushed myself harder than I ever have and made a record I am really proud of." "Hear Me Now" is available now. For more information on Secondhand Serenade, please visit their website. Definite Downloads: "You And I" and "Hear Me Now".
Lyrics — 7
On his third album "Hear Me Now" he blends syrupy affairs with self-ruminating meditations to create a potent stew of mid-tempo melodicism and timeless crescendos. While it's not exactly an album of the year candidate, there's enough radio fodder and at least a few hints at the possibility of another platinum-selling single. While Veseley has gone on record as admitting that Hear Me Now would focus less on relationships and more on upbeat numbers, neither of those two things are true. Album opener "Distance", is a sweeping and saturnine ballad about missing his wife, while first single "Something More", is a mid-tempo number with a sweetly affecting piano melody and lyrics that document self-reflection and identity. When he sings the words, "Do we know what we're fighting for? I fooled everyone and now what will I become?," it carries a sentiment that could easily resonate with middle-schoolers and post-grads. But are they profoundly deep? Therein lies the conundrum with Vesely. Sure his Hallmark lyrics may not exactly be thought-provoking, but his ability to marry heart-on-sleeve intimacy with radio-ready choruses truly knows no bounds. In short, when it comes to Top 40 and AC radio formats, there are few better than this guy.
Overall Impression — 7
The overly emotive "You And I", is Vesely's first attempt at upping the sonic ante, and while its a noble effort, very little about this ode to yearning is stadium-ready. On the other hand, the building crescendo of "Is Anybody Out There?" stakes its claim as the album's most dense offering. Laden with double-barreled guitars and pounding drums, it picks up on the same inner-reflection of "Something More," but goes a bit farther. While it's undeniably moving, it's worth noting the sentiment behind it all. Financially well-endowed and supremely comfortable, one has to wonder what led Vesely to write such an ode to aimless wandering. As much as he tries to dot Hear Me Now with upbeat songs ("Is Anybody Out There?" springs to mind), the quavering nature of his vocals do little to support them. Whether he wants to admit it or not, the vulnerability and suppleness of his timbre is tailor-made for poignant ballads and wistful movie soundtracks. That very sentiment is something he should never lose sight of. While he can certainly be labeled soft, saccharine and any other pejorative term, there are far too many musicians struggling in basements, dive bars and subway platforms that would trade body parts to write ballads this evocative and timeless. "Reach For The Sky", "World Turns", and the title track are proof of this. If "Hear Me Now" ends up being a triumph, a good chunk of the credit should go to producer Aaron Johnson. The California knob-twiddler has worked with the likes of The Fray, Jonas Sees In Color and others and knew exactly how to shape these ballads. But even if it is a triumph, those that can appreciate good music are never going to smile upon lyrics as trite and as banal as "My eyes feel like they're bleeding, but I'm just crying." In the end, for as much as it tries to be anything but, "Hear Me Now" comes across as a dozen plaintive love letters. Somewhere back in Australia, Air Supply is smiling.