Heart-on-sleeve earnestness is nü-emo's lyrical stock in trade, but The Starting Line's 23-year-old bassist/singer Kenny Vasoli makes his peers sound guarded by comparison. Though he's musically documented every awkward, lovelorn phase of his own adolescence (including the loss of his virginity), Vasoli has used his band's last two albums—2005's Based On A True Story and now Direction—primarily to map TSL's journey through the music-industry briar patch. Inspired by the band's release from its Geffen contract, and overseen by hit-making producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance), Direction finds TSL pulling out jagged, Shudder To Think-esque breakdowns, crystalline acoustic-guitar campfire tunes, and million-watt modern-rock ballads alongside the usual infectious, spit-polished emo anthems. For his part, Vasoli now sounds less concerned with impressing little girls and more interested in connecting with their older siblings as a legitimate artist, With more such surprises, he just might break out of character.