A great second solo LP from the science-savvy Vivian Girl.
Chris Beanland 2012
Too many so-called solo albums feel like the narcissistic star of the piece is staring into a cracked mirror. They simply don't stand up. But not so this collection: Sees the Light (also, apparently, an intentional play on words when you speak its title out loud) is a fully accomplished effort.
La Sera ("the evening" in Italian) is the alias under which Katy Goodman recorded this record. Goodman has a better-known nickname: as Kickball Katy, this Brooklynite came to prominence playing bass for Vivian Girls. (Tellingly, she also fulfils the same duties in a Slits tribute band.)
For her second solo outing Goodman mines some of the same slacker seams that Vivian Girls dig away at, but she also puts her own spin on things. Please Be My Third Eye is a down-tuned, super-fuzzy single which has 'radio friendly' written all over it. The specifically medical subject matter of this song is apt – this double physics graduate names Serbian engineer Nikola Tesla as one of her all time heroes. Indeed, in life, the science-loving hipstress effortlessly ploughs her way through many of what had tiresomely been thought of as men's domains, and she stands as both a carrot-topped (and proud of it) style icon to female fans and something of a fantasy girlfriend figure to her male ones.
Elsewhere Goodman mixes the meticulous with the whimsical. And the experiment – conducted with a solid backing band for support – can be judged a success. There are delicate laments such as Love That's Gone and It's Over Now, a Pixies-influenced bottle rocket (Break My Heart), the kind of calypso-flavoured ditty that Zooey Deschanel should be making right now (Real Boy), and a sing-along surf-rock treat in the Best Coast mould (I'm Alone).
If these song titles suggest to you that this is a break-up album in the classic mould, well, it certainly seems that way. But it's unsentimental, never cloying and ultimately breezy. Goodman casts a spell on the listener with Sees the Light. While a woman of science would never believe in anything as unnatural as the supernatural, she does evidently believe in love – and let's hope that she finds it by the next time she records.