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Alternative & Indie - Released March 4, 2016 | Polyvinyl Records

Since she started making records on her own under the name La Sera, ex-Vivian Girls member Katy Goodman has refined and revamped her sound from record to record, starting with the deeply reverbed girl-group approach of the debut La Sera album, then adding some snappy garage punk to Sees the Light, and a little bit of power pop gloss to Hour of the Dawn. On the fourth La Sera album, Music for Listening to Music To, she's turned the basically solo project into a duo affair, officially adding her husband Todd Wisenbaker to the lineup. He had already served as guitarist and producer on Hour of the Dawn, but now he's a true partner, co-writing all the songs, playing all the guitars and basses, and providing vocals. Along with this difference comes a drastic musical change, from garagey pop to twangy country. The duo handed the production duties over to Ryan Adams, ditched almost all the guitar noise, and dug deep into some dusty Americana. Some of the album jangles like big-haired '80s college rock, some of it gambols about rambunctiously like a cornpone X, and all of it feels like the work of another band entirely. With Goodman singing fewer songs -- and those she does sing sometimes push her range a bit too far -- it seems like Wisenbaker barged in and started pushing her to the sidelines almost immediately. She didn't really need the help -- her previous albums had been solid and getting better and more interesting with each release. Wisenbaker isn't a particularly distinctive vocalist and his solo features are like commercial breaks between Goodman's features. The '80s pop/rock with synth track "Nineties" sounds like a pale imitation of a song their producer would have buried in the vaults. He's not great shakes as a duet partner, either, coming off like a nosey neighbor instead of a collaborator. The songs that work the best, like midtempo weeper "Begins to Rain" and the gently swaying "A Thousand Ways," are those Goodman sings all by herself and that stay in her fragile girl-group vocal range. The twangy country rockers are OK enough, but it's a sound that's been done to death and the duo don't bring anything interesting to it. One could argue that previous La Sera albums didn't exactly have an original sound, but at least they had a singular vision. On Music for Listening to Music To, there's a vision, but it's not Goodman's and it's not well conceived or well executed. Hopefully it's just a diversion and Goodman can get back to the kind of good-natured garage pop she does so well next time. © Tim Sendra /TiVo