Review Summary: A Painting!
An artist is not supposed to put out two quality albums in two years unless they are the Beatles. Releasing two quality albums in two years is like having a Summer Olympics every two years instead of every four years, like having a World Cup every three years instead of four, like electing a President every year instead of every four years, like having a big LIVE AID concert every couple of years instead of every couple of decades, and like having a new woman every two hours (which is impossible unless you are Casey Whitman.) We are programmed to believe that a good album is like a painting and the artist has to take time to mold it (write the songs for it,) work on several drafts of it (record and master it,) and then begin to share it (let some people listen to it before really releasing it.) This process in itself should take at least around 20 months, if we still want to believe that our favorite artists are still releasing "art." An artist releasing two quality albums in two years is nearly impossible because the second album would be rushed, incomplete, and inconsistent and would be a rough draft instead of a complete and beautiful painting.
What kind of artist would it take to release two quality albums in two years? Well it would have to be an artist who has a clear idea of he or she wants, an artist who has found their sweet spot. When The Beatles released Sgt Pepper's, The Magical Mystery Tour, and The White Album all over a two year span they knew that they wanted to make psychedelic pop music that opened the listeners mind to new sounds yet was still "mainstream" and "relevant" enough to be heard on the radio. When Radiohead released Kid A and Amnesiac in a span of about 8 months they knew that they knew that wanted to further the boundaries they pushed on Ok Computer. An artist who releases two albums in two years has to know what they want. An artist releasing two quality albums in two years also has to have a lot of quality material to choose from, a lot of great songwriting and instrumentation, and has to "realize" a lot of new influences.
It seems like in today's music scene it would almost be impossible to release two quality albums in two years: artist tour year round and have almost no time to record new music, the radio single is more important than the album anyway, and finding a "sweet spot" is tough when you are competing with so many new artists and new sounds. It is tough to make two paintings when you don't even have time to shop for two paint brushes. This is why it should amaze you that La Sera has released two quality albums in two years with 2011's La Sera and 2012's Sees The Light. The first reason that La Sera (Katy Goodman) is able to do this is that she has really found her "sweet spot" and her niche in the musical world. This album is what she does best it is a summer folky and grungy break up album that features ten solid songs. Goodman's music sounds like a lighter and more summery version of St. Vincent's Strange Mercy, sounds like a more complicated and more real version She & Him, a more produced version of the Beach Boys, and a less harsh version of some of the most popular 1990's grunge bands. It might sound like a sound that is almost improbable but it is a sound that Goodman has perfected and is present on almost every song on this album. It is a sound that probably won't make sense until you hear it over and over again. And it is a sound that makes this album the perfect soundtrack for your summer.
Not only has Goodman found her "sweet spot" instrumentally but she has also found her niche as a songwriter. Goodman is writing beautiful songs for just about everyone in the 16-24 age range: she is writing songs for the girl who is looking for a real man, she is writing songs for the girl who cannot get the boy out of her mind, she is writing songs for the girl who just got her heartbroken, she is writing songs for the girl who just fell in love, she is writing songs about how far she has come, and she is writing songs about how optimistic she is about the future. The key to Goodman's song writing though is even though she is tackling emotional topics her lyrics or vocals are never forced or over emotional, never cliche or Disney, and are always interesting and fit the "lush," summery, and grungy atmosphere she has created almost perfectly. The songwriting and vocals on this album are tremendous and fit the atmospheric instrumentation nicely.
Another reason that Goodman has been able to release two great albums in two years is that she has a ton of influences and she just "gets" how to make good songs. Goodman sounds like someone who playlists consists of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, St. Vincent, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, She & Him, M. Ward, and Monsters of Folk. She created an album where she tries to mix the sounds of all of these artists and all of their genres together on just about every song. The result is an artist that has found a unique sound and knows how to use this sound without the music ever sounding forced. She also just knows how to combine these influences and make good songs: "Love That's Gone" is one of the best opening tracks of the year so far, "Break My Heart" has a chance to be your favorite song of the summer, "Real Boy" is her most impressive work instrumentally and lyrically, "How Far We've Come Now" shows that she has the ability to make anthems, and "It's Over Now" might end up being the best song on the album. Goodman is an artist that has this music thing down to a formula and that is one of the major reasons she was able to release two great albums in two years.
Making music is not supposed to be a speedy process. It is supposed to be a flower that slowly blooms, it is supposed to be a campaign that never ends, it is supposed to be a flight that never really lands, and it is supposed to be a painting that is beautifully molded and released only upon what the artist considers perfection. With Sees The Light, La Sera proves that beautiful paintings don't have to be released every two years or every decade but they can be released just about every year. The artist just has to know what they are trying to paint.