If you’re a fan of twee pop (or C86 or whichever term you prefer), you’d understand if I suggested that what makes that style of music work is the lack of derivation from certain stylistic signifiers. The guitars are always crisp and jangly, the rhythms are usually very basic, and the lyrics are lovelorn tales of young people too awkward and romantic to ever experience love. It’s a tried and true formula, and while it has produced more forgettable bands than memorable ones (for every Field Mice, there’s a Stargliders), it’s something that works well without much need for variation. To their credit, Veronica Falls take some steps away from that sound with Waiting for Something to Happen; however, their sonic shift places them in a pack of inconspicuous indie bands who sound exactly like this.
There was always plenty to like about Veronica Falls; their debut was a charming if unassuming record, but what set them apart from artists like Widowspeak or Frankie Rose or whichever artists are headlining Williamsburg warehouses these days was a strong commitment to melody. They had enough melodic charm to suggest that career wouldn’t be reduced to a one-and-done debut that became less appealing every time they tried to remake it. Indeed, parts of Waiting for Something to Happen indicate progress. The guitars sound crisp and clear, eschewing much of the reverb effects that appeared on their first record (and on the records of every indie pop band, for some reason). It lends an immediacy to the proceedings that keeps your attention, and the dreamy vocals of Roxanne Clifford aren’t so laden in effects that they lull the listener into a trance. Everything about the record’s production is more geared towards highlighting the craft of the songs rather than creating an atmosphere.
It’s a pity, then, that song craft is where the album comes up short. Aside from a few bright spots, such as the long-gestating single “Teenage”, nothing on Waiting for Something to Happen really sticks on repeated listens. Sure, their songs are pleasant enough, but nothing here is so striking as to make one’s head turn. Most everything here is arranged and played in similar ways, with only “Everybody’s Changing” breaking away from the established pattern. Not that there’s anything wrong with sonic consistency, but the sameness of the arrangements only highlight how unremarkable songs like “Falling Out” and “Broken Toy” really are. The only separating Veronica Falls from being an also-ran to Vivian Girls are their lyrics, which lean more towards the Romantic than the apathetic. This comes close to saving “My Heart Beats”, which many more bands would probably play with an infuriating sense of ironic detachment. If nothing else, they have sincerity going for them.
I don’t mean to make it appear as if Waiting for Something to Happen is outright bad or that Veronica Falls aren’t worth anyone’s time in general. Still, I can’t get help but be frustrated when a band who seemingly had themselves well and figured out misses the mark like this. What"s worse is that “Daniel”, one of the best songs they’ve written up to this point, doesn’t come around until near the very end of the album, almost as an afterthought. It’s truly affecting in a way that Veronica Falls struggle to achieve throughout their underwhelming second album. I can only hope that this is nothing but a textbook case of the sophomore slump and not another instance of a band content to spin their wheels into eternity.