New Music Review: La Sera; ‘Sees the Light’ (MUSIC VIDEO)
Vivian Girls bassist Katy Goodman released her first album under the La Sera name just last year (also on the Hardly Art label) so it’s a bit surprising that she already has a follow-up, but it’s a welcome return and a major stylistic break from the debut.
On La Sera, Katy Goodman wrote the material but then handed over demos to Brady Hall to re-record before returning to add vocals. On Sees the Light Goodman takes a more active role, playing bass in addition to writing the songs and recording vocals. Her more active role in the creative process makes for a more engaged listen.
While La Sera traded in slow dream pop wrapped in a soft blanket of reverb, Sees the Light lets the songs breath a bit more. Most of the songs are upbeat power-pop, with only a few hinting at the dreaminess of La Sera, which suffered a bit from all the songs sharing the same laconic pace. There’s much more diversity between songs on Sees the Light, which only makes songs like the ballad “It’s Over Now” or the lilting “Love That’s Gone” that much better.
Lead single “Please Be My Third Eye” is an uptempo song that’s more immediately engaging than anything on La Sera. The crunchy guitars and propulsive drums are up front, not drenched in reverb and pushed to the background. This new approach works wonderfully with Goodman’s crooning melody and perfectly balanced background vocals (which has always been La Sera’s greatest strength).
When the noise, reverb and dreamy background vocals blend on “How Far We’ve Come Now” it’s like the synthesis of all of Katy Goodman’s approaches to making music: the punky noise-pop of Vivian Girls, the dream pop and layered girl-group inspired background vocals of La Sera and the more power-pop leaning tendencies of Sees the Light. This blend of styles makes “How Far We’ve Come Now” one of the album’s highlights, and hopefully a sign of things to come from La Sera.
“Real Boy” breaks noticeably from the trends of the rest of the album, which is a bit disruptive on first listen. It’s a light, breezey, somewhat repetitive slice of pop that ultimately sounds a little too much like it could be used in the background of a car commercial.
Lyrically most of the songs deal with the theme of love lost, but that ranges from the guilt of “Break My Heart” to the heartbreak of “It’s Over Now” to the declaration “I love my life without you” in “Love That’s Gone.” Actually, that line is a pretty good summation of the mood through most of the album — ‘Sees the Light’ is a breakup album, but it’s an optimistic one; most of the songs deal with the sense of freedom and new possibilities that can follow the end of a relationship. When she sings the chorus of “I’m Alone” (a great slice of jangly pop), she doesn’t seem so upset about it.
Ultimately, ‘Sees the Light’ is a step forward for Goodman in a main creative role. If La Sera has become her main creative outlet, that’s no loss. She has proven that she’s more than capable of leading and ‘Sees the Light’ is a good deal more rewarding than the past couple of Vivian Girls albums.
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