This La Sera article was written by James Dawson, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.
La Sera broke out in 2014 with their third album ‘Hour of the Dawn.’ Fronted by former Vivian Girls member Katy Goodman, it was a rush, so off-the-cuff; the musicians throwing themselves into each song, especially the near-perfect ‘Fall In Place.’ The music was clean, not innovative, but modern. Goodman’s voice and lyrics were so cool, so scathing and detached but then, almost in the same moment, so insistent and impassioned.
In the two years since a few things have changed: guitarist Todd Wisenbaker (exceptional on ‘Hour Of The Dawn‘) takes a bigger role. The sound has a more retro tone, and, weirdly, Ryan Adams is now at the production desk. But the most important thing remains, Goodman’s songwriting is sharper and more alluring than ever and her voice is a revelation. Dreamy, with a faraway quality, often indecipherable, but so arresting your attention never wavers.
On ‘High Notes,’ over relentless drums and guitar, she rushes the verses, dying to get to the explosive chorus. The urgency is infectious, full of such abandon that the screeching harmonica that closes the song is probably the only thing that could follow it. She shares vocals with Wisenbaker on ‘One True Love,’ but when he sings you’re waiting for her to come back, she just dwarfs him. Wisenbaker’s vocal excursions are more successful on the nervous, jittery ‘I Need An Angel.’ But he really comes into his own with the gorgeous, regretful ‘Nineties.’
‘High Notes’ opens the album with the pace of ‘Hour Of The Dawn,’ but the tone is now set by Wisenbaker’s racing, jangly guitar line. Its sound defines this record as much as his wild, soloing style defined the last. The Byrds and Johnny Marr are obvious antecedents, but mere comparison can’t capture the texture and freedom he finds in the well-worn style. On songs like ‘Shadow Of Your Love’, ‘Take My Heart’, particularly ‘Begins To Rain’ (with huge, jarring slashes of guitar), Wisenbaker adds a downcast tone, not present on ‘Running Wild’, deepening the power of Goodman’s vocals.
The elements that make this album so good, more distinctive and unpredictable than ‘Hour Of The Dawn,’ come together most perfectly on the astonishing ‘A Thousand Ways.’ Three minutes long, its soaring chorus consumes it. Echoing the huge, dense sound of sixties girl-group pop, but, again, with a depth and power that makes such comparison insufficient. As with ‘One True Love’ the verses just feel like a way to get to the chorus. When it arrives the sound inflates to an unbelievable scale, Goodman drifting away in the reverie, repeating the chorus for the entire final minute, coming down again and again on the lyric “Love can do all of these things” with stunning emotional investment.
La Sera have come a long way in five years, to the point where they can now be considered a great band. One of the most exciting things about this album, however, is that it doesn’t feel like the culmination of a journey, it feels like the start.