Veronica Falls Waiting For Something To Happen(Slumberland/Bella Union) Buy it from Insound
Veronica Falls’ self-titled debut was a fun slice of pop, delivering solid guitar lines and catchy choruses with a distinct goth-tinged tone that lent the album a bit of separation. Still, song structure was not terribly varied and hooks were good but not memorable, so I, for one, was hoping that the follow-up, Waiting For Something To Happen, would highlight improvements in songwriting while expanding a bit on the band’s unique niche in a crowded market. As it turns out, the band opted for a stylistic shift more than a shift in structure and expansion of songwriting.
More often than not, a track on the self-titled was able to differentiate itself from what surrounded it. You had the moody-romance of Found Love In The Graveyard, the relative ambition of Come On Over (4:33 seconds was at least a minute longer than every track on the album), and, perhaps most memorably, the effortless, shy dance of Stephen. Waiting For Something To Happen pursues that final note almost uniformly, only reaching the same heights on the title track and the hyper-jangle of Teenage, a song as exuberant and care-free as the title suggests. But largely, the band’s turn from paradoxically sweet Goth-pop to the more treaded territory jangle-pop works against them. Melodies feel like after-thoughts, and few stick with you the next day despite being enjoyable enough as they come. It has the spirit of twee but not the poignancy or joy.
But that’s precisely the problem with Waiting For Something To Happen. A laid-back approach for a debut is okay, especially if there is something a bit special about the band, but when the formula is essentially the same one that has turned “indie” bands like The Shins and Death Cab For Cutie into mainstream stars, that little punch won’t go terribly far. There is very little risk on this sophomore effort, and a turn away from their charm carries very little weight if it sounds even more like the countless influences. It’s great when a band tries something new, but when something “new” is so old when looking at the big picture, great—not good—songwriting is essential, and if anything, Waiting For Something To Happen is a regression in songwriting. The heartbreak the lyrics always try to capture is earnest, but too vague and cliché-heavy to pay much attention to, and most feelings will go in one ear and out the other.
Still, just because it doesn’t stick doesn’t mean it’s bad. Roxanne Clifford sings with a confidence that makes the music all the more sprightly, and her guitar interplay with James Hoare (whose vocals are nothing to squawk at, either) is often times endearing. They may not be able to write the same melodies as, say, Peter Buck, but don’t tell them that; the jangling guitars dance around adolescent subject matter as if they are constantly channeling that good day in high school, even if nothing in particular makes it good. It’s a day in the life without having to be so moody, and there’s something to be said for that. It seems like songs focusing on adolescents—explicitly or implicitly like Veronica Falls—are either depressing or love songs, but Veronica Falls isn’t afraid to bask in the glory of ennui. Who says it’s always a bad thing to be bored?
The whole record captures that feeling. It isn’t always bad to be bored, and although you might look back at that time you spent lying on your bed on a sunny day thinking that you didn’t accomplish anything all day, you certainly weren’t worried while you were doing it. Waiting For Something To Happen is precisely that feeling; it’s a good way to accomplish nothing, but as the sun goes down or the record winds down, you don’t have much to talk about as far as your day goes. So while the name proves unfortunately true, during the breezy My Heart Beats or the bouncy, tight Teenage, you might find yourself thinking that it could be true in a worse way. But there isn’t anything as effective as Stephen, and that’s disappointing if nothing else.14 February, 2013 - 04:18 — Forrest Cardamenis