La Sera - Music for Listening Music To (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

La Sera

Music for Listening Music To (2016)


Moreso than any of its three older sisters, Music for Listening Music To, the fourth La Sera record, sounds the most sincere. That’s not to say that the previous trilogy was manufactured, but whereas La Sera was Katy Goodman as choir, and where Sees the Light was Katy Goodman goes punk (to a degree), and Hour of the Dawn was Katy Goodman rattling her shackles, LP number four is Katy Goodman being Katy Goodman.

The record puts at the forefront what most of Goodman’s works keep in the back. What was once homage or sly reference is now the main event. You need look no further than opening salvo, “High Notes” which finds Goodman returning to her la-la-la-la voice. In the past, she’s mentioned that she didn’t want to be confined or chained to that aesthetic, and as she’s shown, she’s capable of other modes, but damn, it is a pleasure to hear Goodman fully embrace her Joan Baez/Carly Simon Totem. She manifest as the astute songbird so well, so why not appreciate it? Why not let that talent blossom?

Likewise, Goodman has throughout her career made disguised and overt references to Morrissey and the Smiths. Check out the morbidity fixation of the Vivian Girl’s Death” or maybe that time Goodman straight up covered “Ask.” Well, here, there certainly is the influence of that well-coiffed posse. “High Notes” is propelled by that classic Johnny Marr jangle while Goodman loops and stretches her voice like the smooth sounds of “Is it really so strange.” But, to be fair, this isn’t straight Smiths aping. There’s only one Morrissey. There’s only one Danzig. There’s only one KRS-One.

Goodman is wise in acknowledging that and instead of drawing too heavy from that well, just as it seems the new album will set into that mid-80’s English wistfulness, she injects some down-home country. “Take my heart” has that languishing Patsy Cline and Goodman harnesses it like the best of them. It’s so easy to fall prey to faux-sentimentality, but somehow Goodman pulls her voice across the soft crash of the guitars and creates something real.

Newish La Sera member Tod Wisenbaker (who is also Goodman’s new hubby) bears his mark on the release. Wisenbaker is a master of the homage. At times he plays notes that if sampled, could pass for any Smiths tune there is. But, he proves himself flexible and on tracks like “I Need an Angel,” puts some muscle behind his wrist flicks- and this is one of the album’s key strengths. Goodman makes pretty music. When she’s happy, it sounds pretty. When she’s sad, it sounds pretty. Some people just have beautiful voices. Perhaps realizing this, Wisenbaker adds just a hint of viciousness under the façade and gives the album a subtle interplay. Just because this music is pretty, doesn’t mean it’s nice. Check out the spooky wandering of “Shadow of your love.” It is a 60s hippie/goth masterpiece.

Apparently, this album was recorded in about five days with producer Ryan Adams controlling the board. This sounds like an album recorded in five days: The release is energetic, genuine, and not concerned with being “perfect.” Emotion and inflection beats systematic skill every single time and the lighting pace at which these tracks seem to have been laid down only makes them more compelling, more exciting, and more genuine. I’m sure there’s some cliché out there about “venturing out into the unknown to find oneself.” Well, Goodman has found herself. I think she knew who she was all along but wanted to see what else was out there. As she’s been the punk rocker and the alt-rocker and the neo-folkstress, it seems as though she’s broken pieces off of those stations. With those little bits in stored her brain, Goodman-as-Goodman is as clever, as interesting, and as expertly executed as any other character you could find.