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Music for Listening to Music to

La Sera Music for Listening to Music to

(Polyvinyl Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

Up to this point, Katy Goodman had always slightly shrouded her mellifluous voice under a blanket of fuzz. Goodman has always sported a silvery tone, the kind that can soothe with a soft touch even when the songs were rutted in places. This was the first thing that brought Ryan Adams’s attention when he decided to produce Goodman’s fourth effort as La Sera, Music for Listening to Music to, and the results of such a peculiar pairing are instantly apparent. 

When taking into the consideration the direction Goodman has taken in recent years, enlisting Adams to bring about some change seems like a meeting of like minds. Both Adams and Goodman can express the throes of heartbreak with tender eloquence, and especially so if it is closely tied with the foundational backbone of American rock n’ roll. Goodman has come forth as a potent performer, and not just one that can emulate Brill Building pop’s past with humble imitation, but one that can carry a tune with striking aplomb.

Music for Listening to Music to doesn’t make any drastic changes to her steadfast repertoire, seeing how it keeps its emotions high even when there’s moments to be cast down and dejected. Sad sock hop ballad ditties like Take my Heart and A Thousand Ways unfold with a subtlety and tastefulness that dares to defy its blinding affability. Others, like One True Love, are more immediately embracing, leaning into a minor key rush of jangly guitars that resemble the Smiths at their most lithely melancholic.

One would be quick to dismiss this as another La Sera record when it goes back to the surfy pep of older songs like Break my Heart or Summer of Love, especially in High Notes, which simulates that same country twang of past records but with better production values. While it’s a fair argument to make that Goodman is simply just playing to her strengths, Music for Listening also captures some hauntingly beautiful melodies that simply hadn’t explored before - Shadow of Your Love takes inspiration from Marissa Nadler’s brooding acoustic fingerpicking with dreamy langour, while Too Little Too Late ends the record with a somber drift (accompanied by husband and collaborator Todd Wisenbaker’s agile guitar playing) that further magnifies her fragile pathos. 

Goodman has gradually extricated herself from other less flattering genre explorations, whether it’s somnambulant AM pop or pounding garage rock, to embrace one that suits her best: blue-eyed soul pop with a discreetly adult slant without discarding her good ear for vigorous, sharp hooks. Which, in turn, could pose the titling of the record as a bit of a misnomer. Music for Listening to Music to isn’t just a background pleasantry; instead, it may very well be the one that could move Goodman into the foreground of her career.