Hear Me Now

It takes just one minute on the third record from California soft-rock group Secondhand Serenade for principal member John Vesely to start apologizing. 'I swear I'm sorry,' he sings, as guitars sparkle and fade behind him, 'please don't hate me.' That tone of penitence and isolation continues throughout the entirety of Hear Me Now, with Vesely contemplating loneliness both romantic ('Only Hope') and existential ('Is There Anybody Out There') against a backdrop of slow-rolling percussion and guitars that twinkle as gently as holiday lights. Produced mostly by the Fray's Aaron Johnson, it's serviceable but, ultimately, predictable, every song gradually building to a big crescendo where Vesely fully unfurls his keening wail. It's one thing to be sorry — but being schmaltzy is far worse.