I first came across Secondhand Serenade with thanks to the power of YouTube. I'd been flicking through various related videos, and I stumbled across a song called Maybe. And suddenly I was hooked.
Secondhand Serenade comprises of singer/guitarist, John Vesely. The first album, Awake was produced using multi-track recording, but on A Twist in my Story, Vesely enlisted the help of an orchestra. Vesely's sound is best described as acoustic emo or alternative rock.
I ended up downloading the album from Amazon, as most of my CDs end up being converted to mp3 files and onto my phone anyway. The album cost £6.99, but the CD retails as new on Amazon for between £6.85 on Amazon marketplace, and £34.49 from Amazon themselves for an imported copy.
After a bit of research, I discovered that the album is a reference to Vesely's divorce in 2008, and the album was released shortly after.
1. Like a Knife. (4:30)
This is, in my eyes, one of the most difficult tracks to review. On one listen, I find myself hating the track, but on the next, I can hear sheer beauty. The first verse starts off with an awful synthesizer and a beautiful guitar track and... Oh my god, is he singing in a minor key? Something about the first verse just doesn't sound right. But then we get to the chorus, and drums kick in. And you can't help but know the chorus is going to be stuck in your head for quite a while. Lyrically, the song isn't genius, but vocally, you can feel this guy's pain. And you actually want to rip the madam who's caused him this grief apart... Ok, maybe it's just me... This song is an emo ballad. There is no denying that. Ever. The use of language tugs at the heart strings, and there have been a few times I've almost felt myself reaching for the tissues. Yes, songs do that to me.
2. Fall For You (3:07)
You know those times when you're in a relationship, and you hit a rough patch? But then, there's a ceasefire for maybe just one night... This song is the soundtrack for those times. Vesely starts singing, with a simple piano accompaniment. In this ballad, you hear Vesely telling a girl how special she is, yet he's scared he's going to lose her. Somehow, towards the start of the song, you can't help but feel that Vesely's vocals are overbearing, overpowering compared to the simplicity of the piano. But, as we reach the second chorus, more instruments kick in, taking us to the bridge of the song, providing an almost epic conclusion.
3. Maybe (3:33)
WARNING! THIS IS AN UPTEMPO SONG!!! I best warn you before you suffer from a coronary. Yes, you can tap your feet to this song, and not feel like a moron. This is the first song that suggests Vesely's not such an angel after all. The song suggests he's hurt someone. And damn, he is sorry for it. So now, you still find yourself feeling sorry for him again. There's something about having a guy singing promises such as "I'll make it better than it ever was" that makes me melt. This is one of my favourite tracks from the album.
4. Stranger (4:51)
Now, there's so many ways to interpret this song. Personally, I can't help but think of that feeling when you set your eyes on some random stranger in the street, and you just get that initial feeling of lust, but mistake it for love at first sight. Anyway, you pluck up the courage to speak to said stranger, and they, obviously are a bit dubious of this weirdo talking to them, and you just want to get to know them. This is another of Vesely's beautiful ballads, set to a beautiful piano, and you can't help but wonder who the stranger in Vesely's mind was. Was he referring to a real stranger, or was the stranger his wife, following the distance of separation? This is my favourite track from the album.
5. Your Call (3:58)
This is an extremely slow song, initially, with Vesely's vocals accompanied only by an acoustic guitar for the first verse. This is a bittersweet song, about being in love with someone, but having to be away from them. The tempo remains slow, but picks up slightly at the climax of the song, in which Vesely sings about how he "was born to tell you I love you". Yes, he's that sweet...
6. Suppose (3:50)
I don't actually like this song too much. The song starts off sounding flat, before picking up towards the end of the first part of the verse. Then the chorus kicks in. The chorus itself isn't too bad, but the verses, and the bridge just have me itching for the skip button. Yes, its Vesely's usual sentimental lyrics, but I just struggle to hear this one out.
7. A Twist in my Story (4:10)
This is another really sweet song, about being in love with someone, and wanting them in your life until the day you die. Bearing in mind we know how the story in question ended, it's a sad twist at the end. It's not the slowest song on the album, far from it, but it's hardly upbeat either. It's played beautifully on an acoustic guitar, to start with before a piano and violin kick in. You have to hear this song to realise how beautiful it is.
8. Why (4:15)
Another sad song, about the fallout from a relationship, and the feelings that the guy is feeling afterwards. Avery slow song played on a piano with a violin accompaniment. During the bridge, he sings about how he'll bring the girl in question back, win her over again.
9. Stay Close, Don't Go (3:38)
A more uptempo song, but still tinged with sadness. This guy cannot sing an uptempo and happy song... he actually implodes if he tries. Anyway, this one is about a relationship on the brink of collapse, and how Vesely doesn't think he'll cope, so he's almost begging her to stay.
10. Pretend (3:33)
Ahh, the joys of unrequited love. It's what it seems this particular song is about. In this song, Vesely sings as if he's asking a girl to let him go because she's playing with his heart, and the pretence is too much for him. The musical composition on this is simple, but then if it was much more complicated it'd run the risk of ruining the song. Another song that as of yet, I'm undecided on.
11. Goodbye (5:30)
The final track on the album, and it seems dear John is finally accepting things are well and truly over. This track is pretty heartfelt... as if you expected anything less. But in a way, his acceptance that his marriage is over makes this track even more emotional.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Like A Knife
2 Fall For You
5 Your Call
7 Twist In My Story, A
9 Stay Close Don't Go