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Hour of the Dawn is the sound of La Sera’s Katy Goodman bursting out, personally and musically.

The result – frantic rock ‘n’ roll that finds its inspiration in punk, new wave and power-pop – should do the same for her band.

A former Vivian Girl, Goodman stepped out on her own with 2011’s La Sera, a confident debut but other than some moments of Beach House-style dream pop, one that didn’t stray too far from her old band. The next year’s follow-up, Sees the Light, was a more substantive effort, and began to make the distinction between Goodman and Vivian Girls, pushed by her strong pop instincts and songcraft. For all its guitar fuzz, the album’s lead single “Please Be My Third Eye,” still felt like a bubble-gum hangover from Goodman’s past.

Not until Hour of the Dawn did Goodman complete her transition and flex a songwriting voice that’s fresh, untethered from any girl-group trends, deftly planting herself where a yearning for louder, faster rock music could align with her melodic gifts.

Opener “Losing to the Dark” leads with new guitarist Todd Wisenbaker, unleashing a burst of strangled noise that frames the “I can’t live like this forever” attitude that Goodman convincingly nails in her lyrics and vocals.

“Summer of Love” packs a sweetness that might be Goodman coyly looking back, but her lyrics, of seasons changing, of newness and emerging from hurt as a stronger person, point in the same direction as Wisenbaker’s hard charging lead guitar.

Goodman visits 1980s Brit-pop for “Fall in Place,” with jangling guitars alongside her soaring voice, while “10 Headed Goat Wizard” nails the melancholic pop of 1980s college radio like 10,000 Maniacs.

The title track, which arrives late in the record, finds Goodman, lyrically and vocally in perfect sync again, giving the album’s true statement of purpose: no more past, only future. The aptly titled closer “Storm’s End” finds Goodman and her band dropping one last burst of aggression, an exclamation point on an album that’s already clear in its purpose.

Establishing her forceful new identity from the start, Goodman makes music with an infectious enthusiasm. And if this record is truly her dawn, Goodman and La Sera will be pushing the right rock ‘n’ roll buttons for long to come.

Published May 20, 2014 in Blurt Magazine.

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Eric Swedlund is a writer, photographer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. His music writing has appeared regularly in the Tucson Weekly, Phoenix New Times, East Bay Express, The Rumpus and Souciant Magazine.

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