[Hardly Art; 2012]

There is a certain struggle or trial to get to the sound artists want to capture, always with some little thing that gets lost in translation in the end, no matter how well regarded it is. La Sera is the solo divergent from Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls and All Saints Day, so her situation is slightly different in regards to artistic and sonic fulfillment. She was pretty much releasing material with only these groups until 2011, when she released La Sera’s self-titled debut album and when you’re a part of fairly high profile projects like Vivian Girls, comparisons will naturally be drawn, and they were. Production wise, the first La Sera record was in the lo-fi vein of where Vivian Girls were going, which for some caused a few sighs here and there, calling out for a more fleshed out singularly “Katy” feel, but it was definitely evident she could make a really good pop record. Sees the Light is a really good pop record.

In Vivian Girls, Katy Goodman was always the element that balanced the band into its softer, sweeter arena thanks to her solid back-up vocals. When she went out with her La Sera project, that sweetness continued to fight on its own, perhaps a little too often without edge, but that command has taken just enough presence on Sees The Light. “Please Be My Third Eye” takes advantage of Katy’s mid-to-high vocal register and a combines it with a full band and fast-paced instrumentation and the result culminates into a sweet-and-sour punk-pop song with absolutely lovable hooks, a huge improvement over the last album.

This album is also better in terms of production, with the occasionally intrusive reverb on Katy’s voice thrown out the door to make way for a 60s beach-pop sound. It’s been heard a million times over, but the venture here is accomplished so successfully that it belongs be taken into account with contemporaries like Tennis and Best Coast, if not regarded at a higher degree. What Sees the Light has going for it that those bands have yet to warm up to is variable consistency, each song is rooted in the concept of relationships, crushes, and break-up sentiments from both ends, but La Sera takes each one to a different level. The change-ups between choruses and verses are less rote, and along with Goodman’s ability to write good hooks, there isn’t too much that gets in the way. In fact, “It’s Over Now” is the only real misstep on the record due it feeling like a too-early-or-late slow moment between the rest of the songs.

One of the album’s strongest moments comes as “I Can’t Keep You In My Mind,” where her dynamic experiences mesh multiple vibes seamlessly with an ultra-singable chorus. While “I can’t keep you in my mind” are the words I sing, the literal phrase is the last thought I have in terms of enjoying the song. Solid dynamics also grace tracks like “Drive On,” perhaps the heaviest sounding track on Sees The Light, next to the grunge-guitar’ed “How Far We’ve Come Now.” The song contains this space that is eventually filled by an extended chorus that hits harder than most everything she’s written prior.

I recently had the luxury of seeing La Sera live in a little thrift shop/cafe/bar in Sacramento, the perfect venue for the group’s humble and fun-loving energy which showed more than I had expected that night. Soon after, I got my hands on Sees the Light and that same energy was still there, which is something not too many bands can pull off between the record and touring. La Sera is not here to manufacture fun, they’re here to make it.

Grade: 80%