Let’s get this out of the way up front: La Sera is Katy Goodman (and her band) and Katy Goodman is “Kickball Katy,” bassist extraordinaire for Brooklyn’s own Vivian Girls. When an artist is in an active band, especially one with the kind of popularity and zeitgeist-friendly credentials as Vivian Girls, forging an individual identity that doesn’t sound like a watered down version of the artist’s “main band” or a mere vanity project can be a challenge.1 Indeed, the rock landscape is dotted, Ozymandias-like, with the moldering remains of these monuments to ego and excess.2 But, at their best, these solo projects introduce the world to an artist’s individual musical vision, separate from the constraints of the collective needs of her existing band.
La Sera clearly falls into this second category. On both of her albums under this moniker, Ms. Goodman avoids the common pitfalls of the solo project and works towards crafting her own unique musical identity. While elements of VG’s style show through in some Katy’s nouveau girl group tinged melodies, her sophomore album, Sees the Light, is an undeniably personal accomplishment.3 Taking that most tried and true of pop themes, the break up,4 as her inspiration, Ms. Goodman crafts ten lean, infectious tracks whose melancholy, and some times caustic, lyrics beautifully complement their catchy pop/punk hooks. Throughout it all, on slower tracks and rockers alike, Katy’s voice rises just high enough in the mix to allow the audience focus on her vocals and lyrics without overshadowing the skilled work of her backing band (and her own bass playing of course).
That unique sound was on full display last Friday at the Red Palace. Katy and her band kicked off the set with the driving “Break My Heart,” revving the crowd up before immediately segueing into the more melodic “Devil’s Hearts Grow Gold” from her debut album. This abrupt tonal shift was repeated later in the night when Katy transitioned from the heart rending beach pop of “Love That’s Gone” to catchy lead single, “Please be My Third Eye” which, in context, felt like a full power rock attack. Throughout the set Katy commanded the room, exhorting the crowd5 to “just scream” between songs and inspiring alternating bouts of dancing and swaying as she navigated her disparate tracks. In short, it was a performance that couldn’t help but please existing fans and convert any skeptics in the crowd.
Indeed, after the show, I spoke with a few people who had come solely because of the CG recommendation despite a lack of familiarity with La Sera’s music (Only some of whom were CG staffers). Each of them walked away as fans (and I’m sure they weren’t alone). To me, this is the strongest evidence of Katy’s success with La Sera, and a hopeful sign that the best is yet to come for this project. If you were there Friday, you know what I mean...and, if not, well you can’t say we didn’t try to bring you out.
1. See e.g. this review, which I felt the need to start with a reference to Vivian Girls.
2. Why that one looks like Peter Criss….and there’s Mick Jagger. I’d pick on Phil Collins too but he sucked before he went solo.
3. This represented a significant departure from La Sera’s eponymous 2011 debut album which was a much dreamier affair, focused largely on Katy’s multi-layered vocals.
4. Two of them actually [http://blogs.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2012/05/katy_goodman_people_2012.php].
5. It was a good crowd but not a sell out. Seriously people what were you watching instead? Less Than Jake?