Release Date: May 13, 2014
Record label: Hardly Art
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
La Sera's third album, Hour of the Dawn is clearly a tactical strike. As strong as the first two albums were, in many ways, they still bore the manacles that brought frontwoman Katy Goodman notice in the first place. Ever since the first Vivian Girls single, the terms "girl group" and "lo-fi" have been shackled around Goodman's recordings. Most of the time, those terms were complimentary, but a prison is still a prison if it's built with good intention.
With each La Sera album, Katy Goodman switches things up, working with new people and adjusting the sound in small increments. After debuting with a reverb-heavy girl group-inspired sound, she came back with a peppier new wave attack on 2012's excellent Sees the Light. Working with her third different guitarist/producer, Tod Wisenbaker, she's added a healthy dose of snarling punk attitude and dreamy power pop to the group's approach on Hour of the Dawn.
There’s something seductive about a pretty voice paired with snarling guitars. Dreamy harmonies add just the right amount of sheen to a heavy bass line, while vicious lyrics sound like sweet nothings among charging guitar riffs. It takes a particularly nimble voice and flexible playing style to achieve this marriage of glamour and grit. Luckily, Katy Goodman, the former bassist of Vivian Girls and current creative force behind La Sera, is an ace at both.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The initial press release for La Sera's Hour of the Dawn came with a confession; the sad bedroom-born indie pop of Katy Goodman's first two solo albums was a lot less fun to create than it was to listen to. For some that might be a surprising revelation, in interviews she can seem like a happy-go-lucky figure and will probably admit with a smile that for her there was little catharsis to be found in her heartbroken melodies.
Is anyone reading this review familiar with Limmy, the Scottish comedian? His Twitter account provides the kind of consistent mirth that his BBC series Limmy’s Show! - only commissioned north of the border, and hardly surprisingly given the impenetrability of the accents involved - only occasionally manages. One of his more recent party tricks has been to recommend, on a weekly basis, that his followers “check out Daft Punk’s new single, ‘Get Lucky’”, if they get the chance, on the grounds that it’s the “sound of the summer. ” It’s easy to be flippant about such tired tags, of course, but Hour of the Dawn fits that particular bill so perfectly that it’s impossible to not have it spring to mind.
It might feel a bit cliché to call an album a “spring record,” but the distinction would be impossible to ignore on Katy Goodman’s third LP under the La Sera moniker, Hour of the Dawn. Absolutely everything here screams rebirth, from the blissful album art to the fact that the ex-Vivian Girl is backed by a brand-new band. On the opening track, she declares, “I won’t live like this forever, losing to the dark,” and she spends the next 30 minutes living up to that oath.
Where Vivian Girls’ rough edges and droning harmonies suggested mystery, Katy Goodman’s La Sera has to this point made no such attempt at obfuscation: Here was the Vivian Girls bassist, here’s what was on her mind when she wasn’t with her bandmates. But Vivian Girls are no more, meaning Goodman’s instincts have run in a less solitary direction for Hour of the Dawn, La Sera’s third album. "I wanted the new La Sera record to sound like Lesley Gore fronting Black Flag," Goodman says in the album’s press material.
Cult noise-pop act Vivian Girls might have broken up this past January, but fans of the expired Brooklyn band have plenty of spin-offs to sink their teeth into. One former drummer, Frankie Rose, released her third solo album last year; another, Ali Koehler, formed Upset with ex-Hole drummer Patty Schemel; frontwoman Cassie Ramone is working on her own solo career—and now bassist Katy Goodman releases her third album as La Sera, Hour of the Dawn. It's not quite Ty Segall-level prolificacy, but they're certainly putting the hours in.
If La Sera’s last two albums more or less mirrored the trajectory of sole songwriter Katy Goodman’s larger joint venture as part of Vivian Girls, the correspondence ends with Hour of the Dawn. While 2011’s Share the Joy, which turned out to be the girls’ third and last album, exposed their arrival at an interesting creative stasis since carefully and thoughtfully branching out and exploring post-debut possibilities on Everything Goes Wrong — not to mention departing from neo-Black Tambourine instant gratification — Goodman’s solo project continues to develop and mature, incorporating small and large touches that may have been missed by those following Vivian Girls’ last release. Hour of the Dawn should be a welcome effort for those initial Vivian fans who have gone on to follow the various side- and solo-projects that formed relatively soon after they made a name for themselves, especially the fans who aren’t too tied up in the former band’s predilection for pedals ‘n’ effects.
For anyone still mourning the Vivian Girls' premature breakup earlier this year, there's always Katy Goodman's solo project to ease the pain. Her third album as La Sera is a fresh take on her former band's love for noisy, grungy pop. Over 30 minutes, Goodman's candy-sweet vocals and peppy bass lines are complemented by newly recruited guitarist Tod Wisenbaker's genre-bending melodies.
With The Vivian Girls calling it a day earlier this year, Katy Goodman’s La Sera side project is now unburdened by other distractions. Perhaps it is just coincidence, but ‘Hour Of The Dawn’, her third album under this name, does sound like it’s had a weight lifted. It is her most energetic solo release to date.
The press release for La Sera's third record frames the album as a break from the past. After two releases focused on Katy Goodman's personal travails, Hour of the Dawn is her coming out party. Done with wallowing in the past, she's moving on with a full band in tow. Still, it's hard not to read the break-up of Vivian Girls, the band she co-founded with Cassie Ramone in 2007, into the proceedings, even if this record was recorded six months prior to their split.
Hour of the Dawn is the sound of La Sera’s Katy Goodman bursting out, personally and musically. The result – frantic rock ‘n’ roll that finds its inspiration in punk, new wave and power-pop – should do the same for her band. A former Vivian Girl, Goodman stepped out on her own with 2011’s La Sera, a confident debut but other than some moments of Beach House-style dream pop, one that didn’t stray too far from her old band.
In our recent chat with La Sera leader, Katy Goodman, she gives major kudos to guitarist Todd Wisenbaker for helping form the overall “power pop” flavor of this, La Sera’s third full-length. The jangle of Control and Kiss This Town Away do have echoes of that dawn-of-the-80s Byrds redux of the Romantics, Records, Shoes, etc. But it’s a couple years later and down in the same streets of Goodman’s current homebase, L.A., and the short-lived Paisley Underground scene that most closely makes for a useful retro-nod here.