Sunday, March 25, 2012

La Sera Sees The Light (And So Do I): A Review Of The New Album

On her new record, Sees The Light, out 27 March on the Hardly Art label, La Sera (a.k.a. Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls) delivers a thoroughly listenable collection of fuzzy pop songs; quite simply: if you can't find something on this record to love, maybe you should give up on indie pop.

It's really hard to write about this one. Suitably retro, with nods to all the usual influences -- that same set that spawned a whole generation of bands on Slumberland Records -- La Sera's Sees The Light sounds like a lot of stuff you grew up on and a whole lot of other stuff you have to go find again in your collection.

That said, it's not just a lot of C86-inspired strum-and-coo here; this is a collection of solidly constructed Pop Songs.

It's a bonus that Katy Goodman has a lovely voice. But what makes this record a triumph is her sense of melody; she's got a way with a tune, as they say.

A song like "Please Be My Third Eye" would work without the furious churning going on underneath the lovely vocals. The effects here are in service of the tune and I really appreciated that as a listener.

And while "Break My Heart" may owe a huge debt to both The Primitives and The Jesus and Mary Chain, it's certainly more than a homage to those two acts. The song surges and soars and swoons, and by the time the xylophone (?) kicks in, it's already firmly embedded in your brain.

A listener may have heard these pieces before in the music of other bands but Katy Goodman as La Sera makes something new out of them. It's not like those American indie acts trying to ape the Btits. No, this sounds very American in some odd way.

I think there's a confidence here -- a near-swagger, really -- that sets this apart from about a dozen other records I can think of from a few years ago.

Listen to "I Can't Keep You in Mind" with its girl group drum stomp and slow-burn build-up. When the guitars crash in a wave, Katy's voice drops back and gets a bit delightfully lost in the mix. The effect is one of lovely vulnerability. The combination of the force of the verses with the practically lush chorus sections delivers a sort of musical magic here.

Sounding like Julie Cruise, La Sera sings the mournful "It's Over Now" and I have to ask: Why is Lana Del Rey all the rage when La Sera is making music like this?

And, hey, they're both redheads!

"I'm Alone" owes a debt to Black Tambourine's Pam Berry. And those Left Banke-style keyboards add a bit of nuance to this track. La Sera's voice is a thing of beauty here.

"Real Boy" is a lilting-and-swaying song that is the sort of thing the Pipettes were doing on their early singles.

"Drive On", with its nods to Link Wray in the guitar line, is a tiny bit sinister. Like ex-Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall, La Sera here is using familiar elements from past pop to create something fresh and haunting.

The story of Sees The Light is La Sera makes a few nods -- subtle ones -- to the past and then pulls her influences together to make something fresh.

"How Far We've Come Now" is like early Ride. Not quite shoegaze-y, but in debt to that wall of noise. La Sera's voice is far back in the mix and the double-tracking in some spots add a cool vibe to this cut. Is it 1991 again?

Album closer "Don't Stay" is delightful, both old-fashioned girl group pop -- equal parts late 1960s Lesley Gore and Laura Nyro -- but also a sort of spin on Mazzy Star, with the neo-psychedelic bits reined-in and refined, sharpened and not so hazy anymore.

Sees The Light is a surprisingly focused and sharp take on a set of influences that lend themselves to musical laziness.

Katy Goodman as La Sera has really done something new with those pieces.

Carefully crafted pop and easily one of the best American rock records of the year, grab Sees The Light on the format of your choice on 27 March 2012 from Hardly Art.

Follow La Sera on the web:

official site
Facebook page
Tumblr site
her label page