LA SERA – La Sera
THE GOOD: Vivian Girls bassist Katy Goodman hogs the spotlight on her side project’s debut.
THE BAD: La Sera isn’t a bad album, and it certainly shows off a different side of Goodman’s talents. However, it never fully escapes the shadow of the artist’s proper band. The record always feels like the teaser before the main event; accomplished by not quite able to stand on its own two feet. That being said…
THE NITTY GRITTY: La Sera is still a decent spin; a collection of simple direct pop songs that fits in with a lot of other female-fronted bands doing the whole retro pop thing. Fans of Best Coast, Frankie Rose and the Outs, Seapony, and even Dum Dum Girls will find at least a handful of tunes worth embracing.
The best moments here are definitely upbeat; songs like "Never Come Around" and "Left This World" that have a bit of surf injected into their backbeats and a hint of wild teenage abandon sprinkled across their melodies. But even the more somber moments aren’t without their innocent charms.
BUY IT?: Your call. La Sera is smart but somewhat uneven.
SHANNON AND THE CLAMS – Sleeptalk
THE GOOD: California garage rockers Shannon and the Clams are back with a whole mess of wild warped fun.
THE BAD: Shannon Shaw is bassist for another outlandish retro group Hunx and his Punx. And just like that outfit, the Clams are all about attitude and juvenile delinquency. You don’t listen to this stuff for its musical sophistication; both bands barely holding it together. But that’s all part of the fun. This is rock ‘n’ roll, baby. And that’s only "bad" if you’re a closet Yes fan.
THE NITTY GRITTY: You have to love tracks like "The Cult Song" and "Toxic Revenge" with their messy mix of punk, surf, rockabilly and doo-wop. And when they sprinkle in small doses of squealing saxophones, raunchy R&B, and Buddy Holly vocal hiccups, the Clams walk those fine lines between homage and parody, low-brow humor and intelligent wit. You can sort it all out or just dance.
BUY IT?: That’s up to you. Sleeptalk is one half dark twisted fantasy, one half kitschy party record. And despite its intentions (good or bad), sometimes this concoction is a "bit much." Just be prepared.
THAO AND MIRAH – Thao and Mirah
THE GOOD: Two indie singer/songwriters merge their talents and end up with something somewhat harmonious.
THE BAD: This collaboration works for the most part. But sometimes the pairing seems forced; the Sept. 22, 2011 album is far from perfect.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Thao brings on the lo-fi urban folk. Mirah has always embraced a cleaner sound. Together the two create something that should constantly clash, but somehow meshes. Kicking in with the rhythmic "Eleven" (noisy Luscious Jackson anyone?), the album flirts with many different sounds before its conclusion.
"Little Cup" and "Sugar and Plastic" take things easy with harmonies and brightness. "Spaced Out Orbit" goes for the atmospheric and otherworldly. "Likeable Man" is a nasty funky cautionary tale for little girls in potential danger everywhere. Put your hands down your pants/Before your daddies do.
The record never stays in one place too long; unpredictability one of its assets. Unlike many other recent underground collaborations and "supergroups" though, I’m not exactly screaming for a follow-up. Thao and Mirah is probably one moment in time that can never be repeated. This party may be uniquely engaging, but when it’s over – it’s over.
BUY IT?: Your choice.
NEW RELEASES – CD
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH – Hysterical
KASABIAN – Velociraptor
TONY BENNETT – Duets 2
TORI AMOS – Night of Hunters
NEW RELEASES – DVD
BRIDESMAIDS with Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph