Convincing rock formalism need not reinvent an old mode, just trick you into thinking you haven’t heard it in ages. That’s what Nashville-based atavist David Vandervelde accomplished on last year’s The Moonstation House Band, whose standout track, “Nothin’ No,” put listeners in a choke hold of fuzzed-out nostalgia for “getting high out on the front porch” and “singing songs about the weekend.” A rainbow-riding powerhouse awash in psychedelic touches, that song displayed an admirable economy of means: no unnecessary clichés.
If Vandervelde’s new set struggles to generate the same charge, maybe that’s because it doesn’t approach its source material with the same aggression or playfulness. Waiting for the Sunrise moves away from the Bolanisms of yore into lovelier, more sentimental territory—Vandervelde comes alive! He excels at big, emotional choruses, wherein his already fey voice hits softer, wimpier, more penetrating registers. On “Old Turns,” a piano cascades in the ample spaces between the chorus’s two repeating chords, leaving Vandervelde with a big window on which to hang his drapery. It’s in the indolent non-chorus sections, where dry snare-thwaps dot the lonely landscape like growth-retarded catci, that his weaknesses come out. This ramblin’ man has evidently never met a groaner lyric he didn’t fancy, and his ingenuousness sets up some interesting dilemmas: Is it worth suffering through the faux-hardscrabble verses of “Someone Like You” to enjoy its resplendent chorus? Through the interminable organ vamp of “Need for Now” just to get to the six-plus minutes of (admittedly quite nice) Fleetwood-Mac-on-morphine-drip of “Lyin’ in Bed”? Through an album of stuff you’ve mostly heard Crosby, Stills, and Nash do better for a few precious moments of reinvigoration?