I’m almost positive “Kickball Katy” Goodman is an innocent. For all the posing, quasi-ironic naivete that gets batted around amongst the female indie rock set today (Bethany Constantino of Best Coast is probably the brightest example), Goodman’s endearingly precious persona never seems feigned or detached. As a result, she’s always been a terrific foil for her Vivian Girls band mate Cassie Ramone, who’s unpolished singing voice, guitar work, and aggressively apathetic stage presence are perfectly complimented by Goodman’s cooing, fragile back up harmonies, nimble bass lines, and blissful dreamer aura.
Subtract Ramone from the equation and you get Goodman’s solo project La Sera which, as expected, resembles a gauzy Polaroid of a Vivian Girls’ record on the self-titled 2011 debut, sanding down any punkish, riotgrrl inflections and replacing them with waves of sparse, C86-inspired noise pop. The album was undeniably pretty (and Goodman was up to the task of being a lead vocalist) but still felt slight and ephemeral, clocking in at only 26 minutes. In the end, little room was left for Goodman to slide out of her comfort zone.
On her second album, Sees the Light, Goodman has tweaked the La Sera formula slightly to create an engaging record that plays to her strengths as a pop craftsman, focusing on uncluttered, but punchy compositions, melancholic ballads dripping with sincere emotion, and a guitar sound scrubbed semi-clean of lo-fi grit and reverb. Granted, it’s hardly a massive transformation, but the healthy variety of guitar textures (like the jangly surf strumming of “Real Boy” and the chunky chugging riff of “Please Be My Third Eye”) beefs up melodies cribbed from classic girl groups (there’s more than a little The Shangri-La’s and Donna Lynn sprinkled through out), to provide a sturdy foundation for Goodman’s wistful lyricism that ostensibly frames the album as a break-up record.
Requisite rockers like the simple but catchy “Break My Heart,” and the aforementioned “Please Be My Third Eye,” certainly add a jolt of energy to the track list, but the affecting down-tempo numbers that dwell on the smouldering denouement of a failed relationship are more intriguing. The slowed down, alt-country twang of album opener “Love That’s Gone” and the languid, post-relationship autopsy of “It’s Over Now” (where Goodman wounds her former partner’s polite concern with a chilly dismissal: “Been a long and lonely time/don’t ask me to be fine/it’s not for you to understand”) are emotional without being melodramatic, and reveal a slightly hardened layer beneath Goodman’s wide-eyed exterior.
By the time the pummeling “How Far We’ve Come Now” arrives in the album’s final moments, complete with a slow, dinosaur-stomp beat and towering guitar solo, Goodman’s innocent persona is now tempered by the awareness that time marches on; whatever she had before, it’s over now. “Please don’t bring us down now/can’t you see how far we’ve come/on our own,” she sings in the track’s final moments, just before a delicate refrain of lullaby “oohs” play the track out into darkness.