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. And La Sera stand out among all these projects for good reason. While Frankie Rose has since achieved her own deserved recognition, she was only an early member of the band; and Cassie Ramone’s The Babies is effectively its own entity that just happens to feature a former musician of the band. Goodman, however, has not only always been a contributing member, but has also been making music as La Sera about as long as Vivian Girls had ceased their output in 2011. Nevertheless, even just a casual listen will show that she’s come a long way, songwriting-wise, since her 2011 self-titled: Dawn continues to shed away the shoegaze/noise pop factor that started with Sees the Light, retaining an interesting, self-aware brand of neo-indie pop that’s filtered through a now-experienced solo artist given to limited yet still playful experimentation.
In fact, some of Hour of the Dawn might be mistaken for the kind of lax soft-pop album older songwriter might have released in the twilight of their career were it not for the throwbacks to 2008. Starting with the particular noise/fuzz reminiscent of Everything Goes Wrong and Share the Joy on opener “Losing To The Dark,” Dawn transitions to a slower pace and a more obvious concern with songwriting and production on “Summer Of Love,” before gravitating back to quality bombast on “Running Wild.” And so it goes back and forth until the closing songs, starting with “Control,” a Slumberland-type melody carried along by Police-/Smiths-/Cure-style guitars, which is followed up by “10 Headed Goat Wizard,” perhaps the most distinct song on the entire album with its acoustic flourishes and harmonizing vocals. It’s one of Goodman’s strongest moments yet, until album closer “Storm’s End,” a mostly instrumental and guitar-driven number that seems to touch upon not only all of the themes in Hour of the Dawn, but also those from Goodman’s time in Vivian Girls.
While Vivian Girls were still around and releasing music, it was interesting to see how La Sera would develop its sound from album to album, especially after such a well-received, polarizing, even controversial debut that was arguably heavy on the neo-factor. For any artist, maneuvering or negotiating between the expectations or need for change is a process fraught with all manner of difficulties. For her own sake, Katy Goodman seems to be changing, developing, maturing (whatever you want to call it) as an artist at her own pace, and however slowly or carefully that may be, we’re all the more fortunate for it.