Music For Listening To Music To (2016)
by La Sera
Polyvinyl Records - - 04/03/2016

The title of La Sera's fourth album says a lot by saying so precious little:Music For Listening to Music To. So, in other words, "music." After the punky heft and wildness of 2014's Hour of the Dawn, an LP that thrashed against expectation, Katy Goodman returns with a set of songs that double down on solid simplicity — the power of wry lyrics, glorious guitar, driving backbeat, and the occasional pump organ groove. And as the record cover gives away, Goodman isn't alone.

La Sera is a duo now — that's guitarist/cowriter/new husband (!) Todd Wisenbaker standing up there. And Ryan Adams joins to produce the fruit of their union, La Sera's first live-recorded analog album, featuring 10 tunes about good love, bad love, dead men, and confused kids.

Music For Listening to Music To opens on "High Notes," where rollicking guitar and punk drums chugga-chugga beneath Goodman's assured coo. Her lines deftly wrap the snark of Morrissey inside the sneer of Johnny Cash, and if you ask her what her favorite parts of the new album are, she'll tell you it's the scrappy stuff. "Time to Go," which hurdles out the gate on a rocket of slide guitar and elastic bass, is another one aimed at settling old accounts — just 'cause our heroine is happily married doesn't mean she can't take swings at those who came before.

For a glimpse at the album's genesis, though, pull up duet "One True Love." When it came time to write her fourth full-length, Goodman wasn't sure where she wanted to take the music. One night she and Wisenbaker (a Jenny and Johnny touring alum who joined La Sera in 2012 and produced Hour of the Dawn) did something they'd shockingly never done before: wrote a song together. That upbeat jangle-pop cut was the result, and the rest poured out. Wisenbaker sings on two others as well — the coiffed malt shop blues of "I Need an Angel" and bittersweet rocker "Nineties," which features synth by Adams and Greta Morgan (The Hush SoundGold Motel). Nate Lotz (Halsey,Madi Diaz) drummed for the weeklong PAX-AM studio sessions.

As a testament to the chemistry that happened in that space, Music For Listening to Music To spawned another fruitful relationship: Adams and Wisenbaker hit it off and decided to start their own band. Instead they wound up recording a bunch of Taylor Swift covers, which became the 1989 album. These days Wisenbaker's doing double duty — you might've seen him backing Adams on Jimmy Kimmel or The Daily Show.

Goodman says Adams' excitement about taking La Sera into the analog realm inspired her to embrace the back-to-basics approach. Considering that, it's the slower, more spacious tracks — like the spare and moody "Begins to Rain" or the grunge-kissed closer, "Too Little Too Late" — that best illustrate how far La Sera's come since 2011's self-titled bedroom-pop debut and 2012's brighter (if still emotionally overcast) Sees the Light. Goodman's knack for swoon and gloom, first heard via Vivian Girls, is only enhanced by the addition of Wisenbaker's voice. As she sings on "A Thousand Ways," arguably Music For Listening to Music To's dreamiest song, "Love can do all of these things." Knowing Goodman there's a sly wink in there, but it's easy to imagine, if only for a beat, that the carefree flame of the oldies La Sera hold so dear still burns here.


1High Notes (written by Katy Goodman, Todd Wisenbaker)2:05
2A Thousand Ways (written by Katy Goodman, Todd Wisenbaker)
Pump Organ - Ryan Adams
3One True Love (written by Katy Goodman, Todd Wisenbaker)2:57
4Begins To Rain (written by Katy Goodman, Todd Wisenbaker)
Tremolo Guitar Swells - Ryan Adams
5Take My Heart (written by Katy Goodman, Todd Wisenbaker)4:22
6I Need An Angel (written by Katy Goodman, Todd Wisenbaker)3:49
7Time To Go (written by Katy Goodman, Todd Wisenbaker)2:01
8Shadow Of Your Love (written by Katy Goodman, Todd Wisenbaker)3:14
9Nineties (written by Katy Goodman, Todd Wisenbaker)3:21
10Too Little Too Late (written by Katy Goodman, Todd Wisenbaker)3:17


Performance statistics

TitleTimes playedDebutLast played
High NotesNever played live
A Thousand WaysNever played live
One True LoveNever played live
Begins To RainNever played live
Take My HeartNever played live
I Need An AngelNever played live
Time To GoNever played live
Shadow Of Your LoveNever played live
NinetiesNever played live
Too Little Too LateNever played live


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Track-by-Track: La Sera on “Music For Listening to Music To”

By Mark Redfern (Under The Radar Mag)

"This album is the first time I've ever been really proud of my voice," says Katy Goodman of La Sera's fourth album, Music For Listening to Music To, out today via Polyvinyl, and it's clear the album was something of a creative rebirth for Goodman. With this album the ex-Vivian Girls member is joined by Todd Wisenbaker, who becomes a full on collaborator on the project and even sings some of the lead vocals. The duo's partnership extends beyond the band-Goodman and Wisenbaker also recently married. Another factor in La Sera's fresh sound is Ryan Adams, who produced Music For Listening to Music To. Wisenbaker and Adams bonded over The Smiths, in particular their album Meat Is Murder, which was one of the influences on Music For Listening to Music To. Here, Goodman and Wisenbaker break down Music For Listening to Music To track-by-track, discussing the lyrical and musical inspirations behind each song.

"High Notes"

Katy Goodman: I wrote this song about coming to terms with the fact that I have a high pitched, very effeminate voice. For a lot of my life, I mainly listened to music where the singer (male or female) was shouting, and I was always really jealous of that ability. If I even attempt it, I lose my voice almost immediately! I wrote this song because eventually I was like "fuck it!-you have to use what you've got, and make it your own." This album is the first time I've ever been really proud of my voice, so I wrote an ode to that feeling.

Todd Wisenbaker: Musically I was going for a clean rockabilly-ish vibe, with a country lick to kick things off. Very '60s Jazzmaster tone with a greaser drumbeat. 

"A Thousand Ways"

Todd: Katy and I wrote this song together at the same time, sort of reminds me of a Sandy Shaw singing "Hand in Glove" vibe. The key change in the end was something I really wanted to put somewhere on the record, big fan of all the '60s Nashville sound, and all those songs have the best dramatic key changes. That's Ryan at the last chorus on pump organ!

"One True Love"

Katy: This was the first song that we wrote for the album. Todd and I were sitting in bed, and he had written the main riff and was playing the chord progression. He started singing the verse and then I started singing the chorus! It came together like magic, and was the inspiration for all of the rest of the songs on the record. This was when we realized how easy it could be to just sit around together and write an album.

"Begins to Rain"

Katy: I wrote this song about a tense friendship that I have been working through. Todd added a lot to it, including the cool stops in the choruses, and the Elliott Smith-y outro.  Ryan was the one to come up with the amazing guitar tremolo swells.

"Take My Heart"

Todd: Katy wrote this one strumming on an acoustic guitar. I swapped out some of the chords for a more aching and longing feel and we made it a waltz. Probably my favorite song on the record. 

Katy: This song is about letting your guard down. It's a sort-of response to our older song "Break My Heart," after which the character has moved on from an old heartbreak and is becoming vulnerable with someone new.

"I Need An Angel"

Todd: This one started with the riff and was the last song we wrote for the record. Sort of going for Dwight Yoakam meets The Smiths meets The Gun Club. I hadn't intended to sing the chorus but Katy didn't like how she sang it so it was given to me. Katy thinks it sounds like Led Zeppelin.

Katy: I do think it sounds like Led Zeppelin and I love it. It's my favorite new song to play live.

"Time to Go"

Katy: I wrote this song about a fictionalized encounter with an antagonistic friend. I am really proud of this one, one of my favorites on the record. The overall sound and frantic energy of it was definitely inspired by '50s rockabilly.

Todd: Hectic rockabilly with slide guitar and tele licks played on a Les Paul, what's not to love? ;)

"Shadow of Your Love"

Katy: I came to Todd with just the chorus, and he wrote the verses and epic outro. This song is another one of my favorites on the record, something about it always just sticks with me for a while.  

Todd: Chet Atkins or Merle Travis guitar picking and I'm pretty sure I stole the line "pedal steel plays" from an old country song. Just an epic way to set a scene of sadness. Ryan had the idea of the harmonics at the end.


Todd: I wrote this on an acoustic guitar, the chords had a sad nostalgic feel to them so I wrote the lyrics that I saw fit. Ryan had the idea of the synth and I was definitely going for an Andy Rourke [of The Smiths] bass line.

"Too Little Too Late"

Katy: I wrote this song on acoustic guitar right before we recorded the album. I really like the lyrics I wrote, and the treatment that Ryan and Todd gave to it. We kept it simple and straightforward. It's just a sad song, and it feels that way.


La Sera - Music For Listening To Music To (album promo clip)


La Sera - "I Need An Angel" (Official Music Video) directed by Jason Lester