LA SERA Sees The Light CD/LP

Risking a real jerk moment here, I’m going to admit right off the bat that Katy Goodman’s always been my least favorite Vivian Girl. Vivian Girls have, for the last few years, boasted a constant rotation of balls-out drummers, and singer/guitarist Cassie Ramone, the droopy-eyed blonde who probably says “dude” a lot and makes for a fun record shopping buddy. But Goodman’s the one who plays it cool. Men know her as the pretty one. Some would refer to her as the one who lends ethereal harmonies to back Ramone’s off-key cries.

This general opinion of the group, then, applies to their respective side projects, with Goodman’s La Sera representative of her place as Vivian Girls’ bass player/backing vocalist. She’s pretty, dreamy, barely there. On her debut as leading lady, La Sera, the real highlight was a rendition of “Dedicated to the One I Love,” which, even as a memorable point, was an extremely true cover of the Mamas and the Papas’ cover of the “5” Royales’ brilliant R&B original.

Not much has changed in the last year. Goodman sings no differently as a lead than she does as a backing vocalist. She’s breezy and agreeable. Her songs are as much background music as she is a background singer. Nine times out of ten, she makes me feel nothing whatsoever—which is a pity, because Sees the Light is basically a breakup record about moving forward. “I Can’t Keep You On My Mind” and “Break My Heart,” the obvious singles, are sort of catchy, and somewhat hark back to the days of the Rentals, but her voice is aligned with their female backing singers, and there’s no Matt Sharp to tie things together. “Real Boy” tries to convince with “Real boy/I’ve got blood inside my veins/Real boy/I’ve got soul/goes on for days,” but there’s no more fire in these words than there’d be in any song by, say, the Ditty Bops, whose retro hula style is sort of emulated here.

Opener “Love That’s Gone,” regardless of what the record’s singles may be, is neither the catchiest song on the album nor the cleverest among an array of breakup options from those that already exist. But it sounds the truest—it effectively captures the feeling of hopelessness that results when one party tries to cleanly let go of someone who’s not yet ready to leave. It is slow and drives home the inability to move on from a relationship that drags forth. And it’s an odd choice of opener for Sees the Light, which is sort of scattered and aims to be an upbeat record, striving to detour from La Sera’s dream pop debut. But it’s the most believable piece Goodman’s got, and the one that both fits and flatters her inability to command attention. [Hardly Art]

-China Bialos


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