Que Sera, Sera, Whoever Will Echo, Will Echo
Katy Goodman has a good thing going, it seems. Not only has she achieved outrageous critical and tour success with her super-successful noise rock band, Vivian Girls, but now she has a little solo project, La Sera, that’s being received equally well. Pitchfork and AllMusic have already praised her up and down, but with 12 songs clocking in at under 30 minutes is there really that much to work with here?
The sound of dreamy, washed-out pop songs, inspired by girl groups of the ’50s and ’60s as well as California-flavored beach rock, has lately become a beaten dead horse: see Beach House, Tennis, Local Natives, The Drums, Grizzly Bear (and Department of Eagles), Real Estate (and Ducktails), etc. Goodman’s take on it is lovely, to be sure. Her combination of acoustic and electric guitars, simple bass and percussion underneath swirling looped and live vocals, with a touch of romantic melancholy, is a recipe for success with a certain set of angsty late teeangers and young 20-somethings.
Her songs are about love, loss, relationships, death and longing. Take a favorite, “I Promise You,” where she sings, “I’ll write you a song a day until I get you back / Count the ways that I love you, it’s so hard to keep track.” The album’s single and probably its strongest track, “Never Come Around,” has a little more energy to it. The drums and her layered blatantly suggest that Beach Blanket Bingo vibe, even with a psycho instrumental solo in the middle.
Yet a couple other ladies have done this, and potentially better. No one seems to remember New Buffalo, an Aussie on the Arts & Crafts label, whose Somewhere, Anywhere certainly informs this sound. New Buffalo’s “Cheer Me Up Thank You” or “Emotional Champ” beats out any of these La Sera tracks. So, for that matter, does the ethereal beauty of Julianna Barwick’s newest, The Magic Place, destroying La Sera with its complexity and mystery.
Goodman has a few other gems, but the last half of the record drags. Certain bands just drum up so much cachet that anyone from the band who does their own thing (Panda Bear, I’m looking at you) is guaranteed a certain amount of interest and appeal. For someone who doesn’t adore Vivian Girls (who sound nothing like this solo record), La Sera’s just another victim of a trend sweeping indie-pop up in its undertow.