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Artist: La Sera

Album: La Sera

Label: Hardly Art

Review date: Mar. 15, 2011


La Sera - "Never Come Around" (La Sera)


When did girl-pop get to be so prim and ladylike? La Sera’s Katy Goodman plays bass in Vivian Girls, a band that has already sanded most of the edges off Black Tambourine’s dreamy cacophonies. Here, in her first solo full-length, she delves even further into music without friction, singing bland, inoffensive melodies in a voice that is expressionless and insubstantial. La Sera’s debut is the Kate Moss of garage rock, blank-eyed, pretty and dangerously thin.

The disc starts off promisingly enough, with the high dreamy guitars of “Beating Heart,” Goodman’s breathy “ah-ahs” wafting high over a scruffy jangle and hum. Here, layered in harmonies and counterparts into a whole girls’ choir, Goodman’s voice turns dense and heady, an easy match for rough-textured clangor of guitar and drums. Later, “Sleeptalking” does the same trick with looping, intertwining vocals — all Goodman — that add texture and weight to flyaway tunes.

Singing alone, though, as on “Never Come Around,” Goodman sounds like someone caught humming unawares, maybe making up a little tune as she goes, her voice breaking as she hits the upper notes. “You’re Going to Cry,” too, has the feel of a tune made up on the fly, the verse a sing-songy oscillation between a couple of notes that bears no relation to the sense or feeling of the line. When a little kid makes up a song about how much he loves his dog, or why he didn’t do his homework, the melody sounds kind of like this.

For the first half of the album, the guitar/drum/bass accompaniments sound like they’re coming from a root cellar, their rougher edges buried under hazy layers of vocal fuzz. Later on, though, Goodman allows these elements to come up a bit, putting a meatier electric guitar sound under ethereal “Hold” and permitting gentle undulation of bass and drums in “Under the Trees.” Even here, though, the vocals remain bodiless, pale and unremarkably pleasant.

La Sera’s first album is well-behaved and pleasant, but distant, and hardly the kind of band you imagine Patti Smith or Chrissie Hynde or Mia Zapata kicking the barriers down for. It’s as if women-led music was leading in the same direction as fashion, toward a waifish ideal that has no guts, no hips, no sway and no bottom.

By Jennifer Kelly

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