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La Sera – La Sera

on February 11, 2011, 7:59am

Three years ago, a wave of bands collectively dubbed “shitgaze” dominated the blogosphere with a healthy mix of hyperbolic adoration, excessive hatred, and issues with the genre name itself. This apparent genre became the label given to noisy indie punk acts including Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit, and Vivian Girls. For shitgaze, the music is made indecipherable not by shoegaze-style effect pedals, but with recording techniques that brought the concept of intentionally lo-fi production values to new heights, or if you prefer, lows. Before delving into more of that on Vivian Girls’ release of their upcoming third album and Polyvinyl debut Share the Joy, “Kickball Katy” Goodman has a new side project to debut, in the form of La Sera.

Opener “Beating Heart” reveals a heavy nostalgia for 50’s surf rock and Phil Spector girl groups. In contrast to the cacophonous shitgaze of Vivian Girls, La Sera’s self-titled debut features less lo-fi production and barely a trace of fuzz in the sugary, choral vocals and otherworldly melodies. Although Katy Goodman might play the stab-happy butcher in the (violently NSFW) video for La Sera’s first single, “Never Come Around”, her ghostly voice produces more of a pleasant haunting, rather than a horrific one.

Songs such as “Sleeptalking” and “Left This World” showcase how La Sera’s warm, brightly layered vocals reach out not for the stars, but for the sun. In fact, La Sera is generally more upbeat than your average dream pop, even on songs such as the eerie “Hold” and the deceptively titled “You’re Going to Cry”. Songs of love and death rarely sound so sunny, and it suits La Sera well.

A pedal steel guitar brings a touch of twang into the dreamy haze of “Devils Hearts Grow Gold”.  As Goodman coos and faintly sighs lines such as “and you’re not gonna sleep till you find your soul”, this second single stands out as an album highlight. On “Dove into Love”, the gentle lull of Goodman’s ethereal stylings prove especially hypnotic.

None of La Sera’s twelve tracks go past the three-minute mark, with closer “Lift Off” lasting a blink-and-miss-it 66 seconds. Clocking in at just 26 and a half minutes, it’s a short and sweet album. The modest length of La Sera works to its advantage, because, as irresistible as the pop melodies are, it’s not the most varied of albums. When it comes to 60’s pop throwbacks, we have indeed “Been Here Before”, particularly in the past couple years. Nevertheless, La Sera is still a solid collection of lush dream pop that is a trip down memory lane worth taking.

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