There is a reason that purely acoustic albums are difficult to pull off. When recording an acoustic album, you have to watch out that every song doesn't blend in to the next with the same strumming pattern or the same lyrical structure or the same chord progression. The sad part about Secondhand Serenade's Awake is that the first time you heard it you know that you've heard the same thing, only 4 years ago: Chris Carabba's seminal acoustic album "The Places that You've Come to Fear the Most."
The vocal patterns of Jonathan Vesely, SS's only member, immediately recall Carabba's wailing in Awake's first track, "Half Alive." Even the first lyrics "Its four am/ I'm waking up to your perfume/dont get up I'll get through on my own" very cleverly rehash the lyrics from Carabba's opening track, "Screaming Infidelities." The rest of the cd does nothing to prove that Vesely has listened to any other album other than TPTYCTFTM , except maybe the occasional spin through Jimmy Eat Worlds Futures to learn how to replicate the sound of mutliple voice tracks on every single chorus and bridge. While Vesely's vocals are not bad by any means, they aren't produced well enough to hide the pitch corrector, and the layering of his vocals gets very old by about the fifth track on the cd. The layering does not end on the vocals, however. "I Hate this song" features two layered guitars playing under Vesely's almost choral vocal approach.
Vesely's vocals, however, are very good. He has the ability to stay on notes for long periods of time, even if some of the notes you can tell are being edited by a corrector. He is a talented vocalist, but when striving to sound like Chris Carabba, talented doesn't quite cut it. He falls short of Carabba's epic nature with his songs.
Another aspect of Awake that needs to be pointed out in comparison to Dashboards acoustic album is the variety of the songs on the album. Wheras Chris Carabba messed with different tempo's, strumming patterns and lyrical approaches, Vesely does not at all. Every song seems to begin with a simple verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure, with a soft bridge coming in about 2/3 of the way through, then ending in a wailing barrage of two or three different vocal tracks that almost drowns out the guitar, which definetely takes a backseat in Awake.
Now, there is one amazing part of this album that must be pointed out, a fact that sets the record apart from The Places That You've Come to Fear the Most. This record will probably get you laid. It is a perfect cd to put in on a date when your driving to dinner or just chilling out. It is a mass a love anthems about wanting a girl to save you, and most of them are so sappy romantic that you can almost picture a girl with you just listening to it. Where Carabba tends to wallow in breakups, Vesely focuses on sealing the deal with the girl of his dreams, or girls if the cd aims at various different girls.
All in all, Secondhand Serenade's Awake is a bad attempt to cash in on the success of bands like Dashboard Confessional. The overarching words in the last track "End", among the four or five vocal tracks going at one time, are "don't let me drown." Vesely would do good to mind his own lyrics, as more often than not this cd gets lost in drowning vocal harmonies that get old by the third track but continue badgering on for another 35 minutes.