Secondhand Serenade

The obvious similarities between Secondhand Serenade, hailing from the suburbs of California's Bay Area, and homegrown sensation Dashboard Confessional are impossible to ignore. Like Dashboard Confessional, the name is a framework for a shifting project led by a singular talent; John Vesely is to Secondhand Serenade what Chris Carrabba is to Dashboard. Both projects began as one-man acoustic acts, which blossomed along with their popularity into bands in their own right. And, most strikingly, both groups are helmed by pretty, tattooed men with meticulously greased quaffs, who emote over lots of acoustic guitar on those two classic subjects: love and loss.

But while Carrabba has ventured into mainstream radio ballad territory, playing with the likes of the Counting Crows, Vesely remains rawer and slightly more accessible. He's got a knack for singing with a hushed urgency, as if he were letting listeners in on a secret. Even if it's somebody else's secret — the songs on both his debut album, Awake, and his followup, A Twist in My Story, which dropped this past February on the upstart Glassnote Music, were all apparently written for his wife. Awwww. Hardened hearts need not apply here.

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