Friday, February 8, 2013

review: veronica falls- 'waiting for something to happen'

This beautiful white slab of vinyl arrived much earlier than expected. Sadly it has the huge disadvantage of being the record to draw me away from the new my bloody valentine. Having been excited about the release of this record since I saw Veronica Falls at the Empty Bottle last March (see here) I’m very happy with it.

What seems the most different about ‘Waiting for Something to Happen’ is its wistful, nostalgic tone—‘Teenage’ for example. Where the self-titled debut had the self-aware foreboding tone of ‘Found Love in a Graveyard,’ ‘Waiting for Something to Happen’ has the heart-on-its-sleeve sweetness of ‘Last Conversation’ or the earnest pleading of ‘Daniel.’ ‘Buried Alive’ is the closest link to the first record thematically and musically. The most noticeable difference is that the band has continued to draw on their thick and hypermelodic guitar sound. Most bands that take on the type of material Veronica Falls do would opt for a sparkling, bright, jangly sound—this record shows a desire to move towards the sort of 3rd Velvet Underground LP-type of thick, spare, overlapped guitar lines that made self-titled LP closer ‘Come on Over’ such a rush. ‘Falling Out’ sounds like a beefed-up Young Marble Giants. The title track and ‘Everybody’s Changing’ are both examples of heartfelt, wistful lyrics paired with sunny melodies and a bright, hopeful tone.

There aren’t as many obvious standout tracks—even singles ‘Teenage’ and the fierce and urgent ‘My Heart Beats’ aren’t as immediate as the self-titled LP singles such as ‘Beachy Head’ or ‘Bad Feeling.’ ‘Waiting for Something to Happen’ is more the type of record that rewards repeated listens—there’s a lot more fine-tuned subtlety at play and there’s also a wider mixing of influences that weren’t really explored on the self-titled record. In the same song you can hear 60s, 80s and 90s influences all mixing together effortlessly. The production continues to be sparse, favoring a strong reliance on their no-frills live sound but subtle background touches are beginning to work their way into their music—‘Killing Time’ (the B-side of the ‘My Heart Beats’ single) features some nice use of organ, acoustic guitar on ‘Everybody’s Changing,’ the touches of distorted growl and feedback on ‘My Heart Beats,’ the overdubbed vocal lines of ‘If you Still Want me,’ the panned vocal movement of ‘Buried Alive.’ The vocal harmonies sound more confident and clear this time around as well. Consistency is the name of the game—there’s never a point where the record lags even slightly. Many of the tracks fall under the 3-minute mark.

For a band with such a bare bones, no-nonsense sound Veronica Falls seem to have a surprising bag of tricks up their sleeve. They sound relaxed and confident—nothing sounds labored or agonized over. Their songwriting continues to take unexpected and unforced twists and turns that can be dazzling if you’re listening carefully enough. They’ve already avoided so many of the potential traps that they could’ve fallen into—a one-dimensional sound, repetitive tone, ending up sounding like Belle & Sebastian clones—the best thing about this record to me is that it shows them somehow finding a way to play to their strengths while expanding into new territory. The video for ‘Teenage’ left me with a sense of well-being about this record right off the bat. It’s the type of video I could imagine seeing on ‘120 minutes’ when I was in high school, back when MTV showed music videos, which is something I find invaluably comforting.

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