La Sera - Hour of the Dawn

A concise and tighter collection of well-focused pop songs.

Additional Info

7.9

ALBUM: Hour of the Dawn

ARTIST: La Sera

2014

Alternative

Katy Goodman may have been the secret weapon in Vivian Girls. If Cassie Ramone was the forefront with her reedy vocals and reverb-drenched guitar, then Kickball Katy was the anchor, helping reconcile the band's love of Sixties guitar pop and noisy indie rock with her harmonies and deft bass work. Remember the intro to "Take It As It Comes"?

At the same time, it's Goodman's work outside of the band that revealed her as a music geek in love with pop music, her music as La Sera a testament to her influences and an exhibition of her fantastic songwriting abilities. So with Hour of the Dawn, the third La Sera album and the first since the dissolution of Vivian Girls, we find Goodman looking to raise the stakes. Once the goal was to write summer-soaked pop songs, now there needs to be the involvement of some gravitas.

In attempting to achieve that, Hour of the Dawn is a bit of a head scratcher at first. While the initial promo campaign hinted that the album would have an aggressive punk quality to it, "Leslie Gore fronting Black Flag" being the quote in question, this isn't entirely correct. In some parts, there is a level of darkness not found in previous La Sera albums. The production is beefier and Goodman's new backing band have the chops of realizing Goodman's vision. The lofi noise-pop stylings of the past are replaced by something far more muscular. Listening to lead single "Losing to the Dark", with its guitar fretboard fireworks and lyrics evoking spite towards a former lover, you can't help but feel like she nailed it and then some. Yet as hard-hitting that track is, Goodman's pop sensibilities still remain. Instead of a Black Flag-inspired album of odes to love and the romances that inspire and break them, what we actually get is an after-hours take on surf rock.

One of the highlights of previous album Sees the Light was the ease Goodman found herself moving from musical stylings like a new homeowner in love with several different wallpaper options. From bubblegum garage to shoegaze to pop punk, Goodman's lithe and fluttering voice and knack with melodies were the focal points that kept the album from collapsing unto itself. Hour of the Dawn, in comparison, feels tighter and concise. It's a collection of well-focused pop songs, but as tight as it is, there are still experiments and those tend to contain some of the most exciting moments of the album. "Control" is La Sera going for New Wave, while “Storm’s End” is a hell of a closer, the surf guitar lead and wall of harmonies evoking images of doom on a sun-ridden beach time forgot. And did we already discuss the jaw-dropping chorus of "Losing to the Dark"?

If anything, Hour of the Dawn comes across as one-dimensional at times, the desert imagery stretching at points. The best songs on Sees the Light breezed on with an exuberant ease and while Hour of the Dawn has a deft sophistication to it, it's no substitute for instituting excitement. But it’s hard to complain when you’re talking about Katy Goodman, who’s proven she can still write a song better than most people. With Hour of the Dawn, the ball’s still in her court.

"My heart’s a waste."

1. Losing to the Dark
The closest predecessor to this track would be “Drive On” from Sees the Light with its’ dusty imagery and late-night surf rock, which so happens to ground the album but the lyrics push it into a edgier territory. It’s new for La Sera and quite frankly, all misgivings cease once the soaring chorus hits. It’s a step in the right direction.8.5
2. Summer of Love
Coming straight from the dark grooves of “Losing to the Dark”, we launch into “Summer of Love” with a crash. While it’s a good song, it doesn’t benefit from the tracklisting, coming across as merely ordinary. But you get to see Goodman exhibit her craft, cramming tons of sha-la-la’s and intricate layers of guitars into the verses and letting it gather into place before running headfirst into the chorus.7.0
3. Running Wild
“You change with the season so you’re tired all the time. There’s no use in dying if you’ve never been alive.” This is a song that could only exist within the context of Hour of the Dawn, the noise pop leanings of Sees the Light and La Sera would have stripped the song of most of its power and above all, its heart. It’s aggressive in the way “Losing to the Dark” is but this time, the venom is softened and a spiralling vocal coda keeps the song from turning onto itself.8.5
4. Fall in Place
Although all the elements are in place and it works as a ditty little piece of sunshine pop, there’s very little to distinguish the song in the way other tracks on Hour of the Dawn succeed at doing. Indeed, its best quality may be its brevity: it’s one of the shortest tracks on the album.6.4
5. All My Love Is for You
Goodman’s always been good at writing songs about jilted lovers, with a chorus that pushes and lifts. With “All My Love Is For You”, it’s the juxtaposition between the dark lyrics and the beaming harmonies that give the song its boost of sunshine. It’s only when Goodman sings ‘my heart’s a waste’ that the sunshine gets filtered by clouds for a brief while. Yet the real star is the lead guitar, spiralling like a rocket into the desert, along with most of Goodman’s heart.8.5
6. Hour of the Dawn
With title tracks, there’s for laying out the mission statement. Does this really happen? Of course not. But “Hour of the Dawn” is the heart of the album in that we see. Everything meets at a head here.8.0
7. Kiss This Town Away
Clearly the theme song to a long-gone teen mystery film. Its roots lie in Goodman’s past as a Vivian Girl, juxtaposing her pop leanings with some intrigue and scruff. 7.8
8. Control
With “Control”, Goodman tries to go for something different: restraint. While the rest of Hour of the Dawn features everything but the kitchen sink, “Control”, by comparison, relies on a bare arrangement. With its spindly ‘80s guitar riff, it is tracks like these that give the album a much needed sigh of relief. 8.5
9. 10 Headed Goat Wizard
Who said light-hearted pop wasn’t a good thing? Guitar arpeggios, check. Melodies that sound ripe for a theme song for a strange sitcom, check. Girl/boy harmonies, check. For a song with such a strange title, “10 Headed Goat Wizard” needs nothing but soars and that’s what it does.7.5
10. Storm’s End
Sees the Light ended with caustic kiss-off “Don’t Stay”. Hour of the Dawn opts for a darker way out. Reverb-laden leads and harmonies build on top of one another, held by a steady groove until what you get is a colossal wall of sound that fades out. It doesn’t rely on Goodman’s usual tricks and for that makes it a heavy conclusion.8.0
Written by Jibril Yassin
Jibril Yassin is a writer based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Jibril likes writing about music because it beats the alternative of watching anime in his room alone.



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