La Sera began as the dreamy pop songwriting vehicle for Brooklyn bassist Katy Goodman of noise pop band Vivian Girls, then shifted styles from punk to alt-country as she progressed. She began penning solo songs in February 2009 and initial demos were sent to good friend, filmmaker, and music producer Brady Hall, who fell for the charming, ethereal vocals and '50s pop influences that Goodman exudes; he re-recorded material at his home studios in Seattle. After hearing the warm pop sounds that Hall had created from the acoustic guitar and tambourine demos she sent, Goodman traveled to Seattle to record the vocals and mix the tracks. With a rotating lineup that featured friends Jenn Prince and Scott Shannon, La Sera embodies the laid-back and open feel of the project and its ongoing members. After completion of the sessions with Hall, the outfit signed to Hardly Art Records in 2010 and subsequently released the 7" "Never Come Around" in November 2010. Their songs touched on an array of emotions, with heartbreak, love, and death all covered in each song with three minutes of dreamy guitar and reverb-washed harmonies. A second 7" was released in January 2011, "Devils Hearts Grow Gold," with a quaint B-side cover of "Dedicated to the One I Love," originally by the "5" Royales. Released in 2011, the band's self-titled debut is a collection of beautifully constructed tunes with a softer feel than the Vivian Girls had, one where Goodman revels in her dreamy pop creations. A video was created by Hall in his home studio for the single "Never Come Around," which is as gruesome as the song is thick with winding vocals and sweet melodies. The album's intricate cover art was designed by Vivian Girls bandmate Cassie Ramone. For her second album under the La Sera name, Goodman enlisted Rob Barbato (of Darker My Love) to play guitar and produce, and Dan Allaire (of the Brian Jonestown Massacre) to drum, while she played bass. Tim Presley (of White Fence and Darker My Love) and Tony Bevilaqua (of Spinnerette) also helped out. Sees the Light was released by Hardly Art in the spring of 2012. In early 2014, the Vivian Girls went their separate ways, leaving Goodman free to concentrate on La Sera. The band's third album was produced by L.A. musician Todd Wisenbaker. He also contributed lead guitar, with Daniel Gomez on rhythm guitar and Michael Gleeson on drums. The Pretenders- and punk-influenced Hour of the Dawn was released in 2014 on Hardly Art. A move to a new label, Polyvinyl, along with Goodman and Wisenbaker's marriage, meant change was in the air for the band. Working with producer Ryan Adams on their next album, 2016's Music for Listening to Music To, the new duo shifted to an alt-country-influenced sound, with Wisenbaker co-writing all the songs and singing lead on a handful of them.
© Scott Kerr /TiVo
© Scott Kerr /TiVo
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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