Monday, September 29, 2008

Waiting for the Sunrise - David Vandervelde

Waiting for the Sunrise

David Vandervelde
Secretly Canadian Records.

SCQ Rating: 70%

David Vandervelde, the young Michigan-via-Chicago-based songwriter, turned heads and opened ears last Spring with his mini-album debut The Moonstation House Band and its celebratory first cut ‘Nothin No’. A liberating tune worthy of drunken singalong, ‘Nothin No’ had all the glam thrills and classic rock nostalgia to hoist Vandervelde, then twenty-three years of age, upon rock’s Next Big Thing podium. Nevermind that The Moonstation House Band was actually pretty complacent; a few great tracks, sure, but when there were only eight to speak of (not to mention Vandervelde's green-horned interviews that boast the half-hour set took over two years to record), it was hardly a cause celebre.

His sophomore album, Waiting for the Sunrise, opens with the gentle strums and piano of ‘I Feel Fine’, a dead-ringer Fleetwood Mac track that somehow manages to accomplish the same feat of pulling in listeners the way ‘Nothin No’ did, despite a completely different sound. That T-Rex impersonating is discarded in favour of early 70s singer-songwriter fare, making this follow-up a fine (and far more focused) record for sobering up/piecing yourself together after the Moonstation party. After ‘I Feel Fine’s humble stare in the mirror, we’re given the highway-fresh air of ‘California Breezes’; a could-be single that showcases Vandervelde’s singular voice in strong delivery and sweet harmonies. It’s this vocal talent that keeps Waiting for the Sunrise treading water when it appears the tide will never change.

It’s important to note that, although Waiting for the Sunrise hovers around the average album length of forty-five minutes, it feels closer to two hours when played front to back. There’s no mystery why - the record is both homogenous and severely bloated – but there’s also something to be said for the notion that I’m hardly bothered by it. By inspiration and design, these are harmless songs, as pristine and weightless as the carefree morning drives it begs to soundtrack. To all Vandervelde fans: no, it isn’t just you – ‘Someone Like You’ does start in almost identical fashion to ‘Murder in Michigan’. To all new listeners: yes, ‘Need for Now’, more than any other track here, runs entirely too long. As easy to enjoy as it is easy to ignore, this should be heard and critiqued as background music. The smoke-stained ‘Lyin in Bed’ is best played while rummaging around your apartment while ‘Hit the Road’ is an electric stand-off, best heard with the windows down. Careful listeners look elsewhere.

What ties Vandervelde’s two records together is two-fold; that his style is unabashedly lifted from his hero of the moment (to date… Marc Bolan, Neil Young, Mick Fleetwood) and his voice manages to make you forget it. Flaws exposed, Waiting for the Sunrise is still a better album than the previous, and another fractured glance at a versatile artist still waiting to find his stride.

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