Secondhand Serenade
Hear Me Now


2.0
poor

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
August 4th, 2010 | 16 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Another full-blown attempt at mainstream success.

Secondhand Serenade always seems to be having an internal struggle with itself. The “band”, consisting of solely the singer/songwriter John Vesely, began deeply rooted in acoustic work. Vesely’s debut Awake was anything but groundbreaking, but the sincere lyrics and overflowing emotion gave the album a sense of personal touch and meaning. A Twist In My Story aimed to expand Vesely's sonic palette, adding a polished alternative rock sound and putting a full band at his disposal. The whole progression was very Dashboard Confessional like, and as you might have guessed, the latter work was unable to match the quality of the debut. However, Vesely knows as well as anyone that you can only go so far with just an acoustic guitar. Secondhand Serenade’s third album, Hear Me Now, sees him taking another stab at mastering that radio-pop sound, and unfortunately, it appears that he has once again missed the mark.

Hear Me Now is essentially A Twist In My Story part two, recycling the same hackneyed lyrics and clichéd song structures as it attempts every single time to build to a catchy, emotionally climactic chorus. The theme is once again trapped within the confines of failed relationships and unrequited love, and at this point it seems that Vesely is either hung up on someone or using an obvious marketing ploy. Regardless of intentions, however, one thing is for sure: you have heard this album before. It is clear from the start that this is going to be another full-blown attempt at mainstream success. “Distance” features that all too familiar combination of whiny vocals, piano, violin, and drums building up to a chorus where Vesely puts his very average pipes on display. This recipe highlights the majority of Hear Me Now, as the ensuing three-fourths of the record follows suit. “Something More”, the first single, is definitely radio ready if nothing else. It seems to borrow influences from both The Fray and Onerepublic, although a great deal of that arises from the production as opposed to an actual stylistic change. Songs like “You and I” and “Is There Anybody Out There”, while extremely polished, are not as catchy as the aforementioned single and are ultimately forgettable. The generic trends found on “Reach For The Sky”, “So Long”, and “Nightmares” only add to the album’s long list of filler.

Unfortunately, a lot of the songs on here only feel so tepid because Vesely refuses to break pace. Almost as if the album ran over from A Twist In My Story, each track is a desperate attempt to get the listener to connect with Vesely’s emotional state. Had he used more restraint in his songwriting and chosen his climaxes more carefully, the listener would have a much better chance at feeling some kind of empathy or appreciation for what he is going through. Instead, it ends up becoming a chore, like listening to a friend complain constantly about a relationship that he/she should have moved on from two or three albums – I mean weeks – ago. Nobody likes spending their time that way, so why would they do it on this album? Sometimes in music, no change begets negative change, and Hear Me Now is a prime example.

Despite the god-awful redundancy present throughout the record, there are a few precious moments worth listening to. They do not by any means salvage the album, but they make it possible to listen to without quitting midway through. The title track “Hear Me Now” features a duet with Juliet Simms of Automatic Loveletter, and their voices actually function well together to construct the atmosphere of desperation and hopelessness that Vesely failed to convey on his own. “World Turns” marks a return to the stripped-down sound of Awake, which provides a small breath of fresh air, at least from a songwriting and instrumental perspective. “Stay Away” almost lends itself to a pop-punk style in the verses, which is enough of a difference from the norm to keep things fresh. Unfortunately, moments like these are short-lived for Secondhand Serenade, and Vesely always manages to fall back into old habits.

For all intents and purposes, Hear Me Now suffers from a refusal to experiment with Secondhand Serenade’s established sound. Repetition has its place in individual songs. Rarely, it will have its place over the course of an entire album. But there is never a reason for it to plague almost every song of two back-to-back releases. There are too many dull and forgettable moments, too many attempts at emotional grandeur, and too few sincere attempts at “shaking things up.” Unfortunately for Secondhand Serenade, their sound is not good enough to repeat to this extent and outside of a select few moments, very little on Hear Me Now qualifies as new.



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user ratings (26)
Chart.
2.9
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2010


16143 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

I think I dislike this album even more than I let on in the review, but "Something More" and the title track were remotely enjoyable, I suppose.

Digging: Alt-J - This Is All Yours

BrahTheSunGod
August 4th 2010


1279 Comments


Ugh I still can't get over how much this band rips off Dashboard Confessional. Only they suck.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2010


16143 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

thanks chambers, and yeah i agree with brah that they are a lesser dashboard confessional.

i just felt like reviewing something really new for a change. this came out yesterday.

Crymsonblaze
August 4th 2010


7485 Comments


Only difference is Chris Carrabba actually has a grasp on subtlety and lyrics.

Sounds pretty bad, I'll avoid.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2010


20857 Comments


Excellent review SS. Informative, easy to read, etc... Worth a pos.

Deceptioneer
August 4th 2010


509 Comments


good review sowing. never liked this guy.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2010


16143 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

thanks Davey, Deceptioneer. i liked A Twist in My Story the most mainly for the song "your call" but overall this guy doesn't do much for me

BrahTheSunGod
August 4th 2010


1279 Comments


(pos'd btw)

tiesthatbind
August 4th 2010


7374 Comments


Good review. Can't say I've heard much from these guys, but Fall For You annoyed the crap out of me when I used to hear it all the time.

Digging: xSPONGEXCOREx - How Tough Are Yah?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2010


16143 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

eh ill admit i liked fall for you (at first, before it was on the radio every 15 mins)

...basically though this album is fall for you minus the catchiness...over and over...and over...and over...and...

Lakes.
August 4th 2010


27956 Comments


teenage girls everywhere will be eating this up

oh, and i just joined the 1000 comments club

Digging: Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright in the End

tiesthatbind
August 4th 2010


7374 Comments


You now matter on this site.

Lakes.
August 4th 2010


27956 Comments


i'd like to think that i mattered before, but thank you, ties

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 5th 2010


16143 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

nope. you only matter now ;)

Lakes.
August 5th 2010


27956 Comments


true, true. i wonder when the gossip and getting featured in a 'guess that sputniker' list will happen?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 5th 2010


16143 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

you weren't in one yet? i feel like the list of active users who haven't been mentioned on tinkrbel's lists are dwindling



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