After the punky heft and wildness of 2014’s Hour of the Dawn, an LP that thrashed against expectation, La Sera returns with a set of songs that double down on solid simplicity – the power of wry lyrics, glorious guitar, driving backbeat, and the occasional pump organ groove. And, as the record cover gives away, Katy Goodman isn’t alone. La Sera is a duo now after adding guitarist/cowriter/new husband Todd Wisenbaker to the mix. Ryan Adams joins in to produce La Sera’s first live-recorded analog album, featuring 10 tunes about good love, bad love, dead men, and confused kids.
‘Music For Listening to Music To’ opens on High Notes, where rollicking guitar and punk drums chugga-chugga beneath Goodman’s assured coo. Her lines deftly wrap the snark of Morrissey inside the sneer of Johnny Cash, and if you ask her what her favorite parts of the new album are, she’ll tell you it’s the scrappy stuff. Time to Go, which hurdles out the gate on a rocket of slide guitar and elastic bass, is another one aimed at settling old accounts – just ’cause our heroine is happily married doesn’t mean she can’t take swings at those who came before.
For a glimpse at the album’s genesis, though, pull up duet One True Love. When it came time to write her fourth full-length, Goodman wasn’t sure where she wanted to take the music. One night she and Wisenbaker (a Jenny and Johnny touring alum who joined La Sera in 2012 and produced ‘Hour of the Dawn’) did something they’d shockingly never done before: wrote a song together. That upbeat jangle-pop cut was the result, and the rest poured out. Wisenbaker sings on two others as well – the coiffed malt shop blues of I Need an Angel and bittersweet rocker Nineties, which features synth by Adams and Greta Morgan (The Hush Sound, Gold Motel). Nate Lotz (Halsey, Madi Diaz) drummed for the weeklong PAX-AM studio sessions.
As a testament to the chemistry that happened in that space, ‘Music For Listening to Music To’ spawned another fruitful relationship: Adams and Wisenbaker hit it off and decided to start their own band. Instead they wound up recording a bunch of Taylor Swift covers, which became the ‘1989’ album. These days Wisenbaker’s doing double duty – you might’ve seen him backing Adams on Jimmy Kimmel or The Daily Show. She says Adams’ excitement about taking La Sera into the analog realm inspired her to embrace the back-to-basics approach.
Considering that, it’s the slower, more spacious tracks – like the spare and moody Begins to Rain or the grunge-kissed closer, Too Little Too Late – that best illustrate how far La Sera’s come since 2011’s self-titled bedroom-pop debut and 2012’s brighter (if still emotionally overcast) Sees the Light. Goodman’s knack for swoon and gloom, first heard via Vivian Girls, is only enhanced by the addition of Wisenbaker’s voice. As she sings on A Thousand Ways, arguably ‘Music For Listening to Music To”s dreamiest song, Love can do all of these things. Knowing Goodman there’s a sly wink in there, but it’s easy to imagine, if only for a beat, that the carefree flame of the oldies La Sera hold so dear still burns here.
1. High Notes
2. A Thousand Ways
3. One True Love
4. Begins To Rain
5. Take My Heart
6. I Need An Angel
7. Time To Go
8. Shadow of Your Love
10. Too Little Too Late
02/22 – Los Angeles, CA – The Echo *
02/24 – San Francisco, CA – Noise Pop / Rickshaw Stop
03/12 – Los Angeles, CA – Echoplex / Force Field’s 10th Birthday Bash #
05/06 – Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle
05/07 – Detroit, MI – Marble Bar
05/08 – Toronto, ON – CMW
05/09 – Montreal, QC – Casa del Popolo
05/10 – Boston, MA – Great Scott
05/11 – New York, NY – Market Hotel
# = w/ Lightning Bolt, Wax Idols, Sonny & The Sunsets & more!