Jul 23, 2014
Jul 22, 2014
Jul 21, 2014
i had the pleasure to unexpectedly go back to london 2 weeks ago, and bought this. more to come.
Where Vivian Girls’ rough edges and droning harmonies suggested mystery, Katy Goodman’s La Sera has to this point made no such attempt at obfuscation: Here was the Vivian Girls bassist, here’s what was on her mind when she wasn’t with her bandmates. But Vivian Girls are no more, meaning Goodman’s instincts have run in a less solitary direction for Hour of the Dawn, La Sera’s third album. "I wanted the new La Sera record to sound like Lesley Gore fronting Black Flag," Goodman says in the album’s press material. "I didn't want it to be another record of me sad, alone in my room. I wanted to have fun playing music and writing songs with a band."
How fun it is when album opener “Losing to the Dark” strikes that aggressive pose, the guitars pinballing off the walls as Goodman snarls about a boy who doesn’t seem to need her until he’s too drunk to take care of himself. “What a shame it must be to have to be in love with me,” she sings, both heartbroken and spiteful. Not that she’s suddenly gone mean. Hour of the Dawn is largely made up of romantic songs carried to their open-hearted potential by Goodman’s high, floating voice. She’s in love with people and with memories, from summer’s promise to the town that used to be filled with her friends. An album that could be sad based on the lyric sheet is stuffed with delirious fret runs, muscular drum fills, sunny guitars soaked with reverb. Vivian Girls’ girl group harmonies were usually cloaked behind a curtain of feedback. Here, Goodman stands in front of the band, her voice shining like a lighthouse on the shore.
The Lesley Gore-fronting-Black Flag comparison is apt, since you could imagine the tougher directions the music would lean toward were Goodman’s instincts for melancholy and tenderness not there to soften the impact. The resulting sound is closer to Best Coast with more focus on the jamming. “Kiss This Town Away” leans into surf rock and a country singer’s sense of lament; the nimble picking of the title track builds to a triumphant outro even as she expresses unease about whether a new day will really bring something better. “10 Headed Goat Wizard” is straight-up Beatlesesque pop, like something you’d hear at the end of an episode of “Mad Men” and not even realize it was anachronistic.
The moments where she lets the band get heavier are interesting: “Control” chants like the flip side of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2” while “Storm’s End” groans like its title, which is possibly a “Game of Thrones” reference (which Goodman has talked about in interviews) but probably doesn’t need to be read into beyond that. (Or does it? Okay, it doesn’t.) That’s when Goodman takes steps toward establishing herself beyond what she’s known for, which is personable if not always easy to distinguish from itself. Hour of the Dawn sounds like a summer record, meant to be played when emotions are high and the sun is out. Most importantly, it shows what she’s capable of when the shine has worn off.