Published Mar 03, 2016Taken at face value, the title of Katy Goodman's fourth album as La Sera suggests that it's intended to be background music. Fittingly, and quite unfortunately, she comes close to achieving that goal.
Goodman shifted away from the idea that La Sera was a solo project on 2014's Hour of the Dawn, but that record still felt like a group of friends executing her vision. Music finds La Sera operating as a full-blown collaboration between Goodman and her new husband, guitarist Todd Wisenbaker, previously of Jenny and Johnny. The duo, along with drummer Nate Lotz (he and Wisenbaker later helped Adams realize his track for track cover of Taylor Swift's 1989) hooked up with Ryan Adams — who produces here — and knocked out the record's ten tracks in just eight days, often using first takes.
While the band's newfound twang is well suited to Goodman's voice, it often plays second fiddle to the record's arrangements. Adams gives Wisenbaker's arpeggiated guitars an equal spotlight to Goodman's vocals, essentially making them fight for space. Nowhere is this more apparent than on "One True Love," on which the couple trade verses, Wisenbaker mumbling, Goodman singing at the top of her range, and yet the listener's main takeaway is the Johnny Marr-esque guitar hook, whose grip is fully loosened by the time the next track rolls around. That problem is repeated across the album's ten tracks — even after a half dozen spins, it's hard to recall a single hook.
Without Goodman's unique artistic voice anchoring and guiding the proceedings, Music for Listening to Music To feels set adrift, done in not by its makers' stylistic diversions, but by their unwillingness to give the album a proper focal point. (Polyvinyl)