La Sera - Sees The Light - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

La Sera - Sees The Light

by Al Brown Rating:7 Release Date:2012-03-19

La Sera is the solo project of Vivian Girls' bassist Katy Goodman and while the two acts obviously share a lot of touchstones, the way each band processes their influences is subtly different. Vivian Girls (like, it has to be said, a lot of other bands) take the Phil Spector/girl-group sound and wring it through the mangle of lo-fi 80s pop - from Young Marble Giants to The Shop Assistants to The Jesus and Mary Chain. By applying liberal reverb and hiss, Vivian Girls achieve something that's just opaque enough to be acceptable to a Williamsburg 20-something rather than, say, Paul Gambaccini. Refreshingly, La Sera seem less about the 'sound' and more about the songs.

'

' is an obvious single choice: real breathless, euphoric stuff. Goodman even adjusts her voice to a half-sigh to emphasise her longing, and those shimmering overdubbed chords on the chorus are, in my mind, the sound of youth and hope. Languorous opener 'Love That's Gone', meanwhile, showcases Goodman's voice in all its subtle dreaminess.

'I Can't Keep You on My Mind' is a delightful, very Pixies-indebted tune - it's got that loud/quiet/loud thing down. You can't pretend there's a shred of originality, but it's got the boring stuff like dynamics and guitar tone nailed, and it also makes your sentimental teenage heart skip a beat. 'Break My Heart' is another buzzsaw gem: like early Blondie bumping up against The Ramones.

Unfortunately, the high standard of the first four songs doesn't really continue. The things that make those opening tracks work - the economy and focus which all great pop music needs - are in short supply later on. 'It's Over Now' is another slow one, which for all its tired prettiness, isn't a patch on 'Love That's Gone'. 'I'm Alone' is a bit too pleasant, getting perilously close to Sixpence None the Richer territory (Paging Mr Gambaccini!)

Then there's the low-effort calypso of 'Real Boy' and the generic teen-road-movie stomp of 'Drive On'. None of these songs are bad, but neither are they good enough to transcend their patent lack of originality. Closer 'Don't Stay' is something of a return to form, another slow one that makes use of Goodman's ability to swoop and soar when necessary. All the songs on this album are so simple and good-natured you can't really hold it against them when they don't come off, but because the ones that do sound so great, it is always a bit disappointing.

Anyway, fashionable opinion might say otherwise, but this is a brave album. Brave because it wears its heart on its sleeve - it's a straight-ahead pop record in a world where you're meant to either experiment or (if you don't like the idea of all that effort) muddy up your sound to avoid accusations of gaucheness. Writing good guitar-pop is like walking a tightrope that's got thinner every year since 1960 - you can still do it, but it's harder, and you've got to be committed and self-aware, and just really nail it, or no-one's going to care (and that's the way it should be.) For managing to keep that balancing act going even half the time, La Sera deserve credit.

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