Although it’s been almost four years since Frankie Rose left Vivian Girls, listening to “Sees The Light” leads me to compare it immediately with former band mate Rose’s wonderful “Interstellar”, since both titles expand on what was announced by their debuts outside of the Brooklyn band. They are two albums that, despite their differences in style, reinforce the authors’ approach and let a little air out of the memory of Vivian Girls. In this sense, the redheaded Katy Goodman confesses that she doesn’t know what will happen in the future with the mother band. Have they split up? It doesn’t matter, because both Frankie and Katy (as well as Cassie Ramone, also happily busy, with The Babies) seem to be feeling brave and more than proud of their new projects. Anxious to improve their debuts, both have hurried on to continue with them: Frankie looking more to the 80s and remembering The Cure or Shop Assistants, and Katy more inclined towards the canonic female pop of the 50s and 60s. Yes, it sounds less mysterious and spectral than the former, but it has other things going for it - such as sounding well-aimed and direct.
The majority of the songs on the album are about couples breaking up; one only needs to notice the first verse of “I Love My Life Without You”, or titles like “Love That’s Gone”, “Break My Heart”, “It’s Over Now”, “I’m Alone” and “Don’t Stay” to figure that out. Nevertheless - looking into it a bit more closely - we see that instead of building a flagellating drama around the topic, Katy handles the issue candidly, even ironically. This is illustrated by the invigorating hit “Please Be My Third Eye”, in which she seeks a final spiritual connection with one of her loves. Goodman, a Physics student, has learnt plenty about magnetism and electricity from her beloved master Nikola Tesla. Furthermore, she has inherited the catchiness and clarity of pop-punk from her other master, Kathleen Hannah. It must be remembered that she found herself involved in this music thing without even really wanting to be, and that she has only recently learnt to play the guitar well. Precisely for this reason, one watches proudly as the accidental artist takes a step forward on “Sees The Light” and, like those old school reports used to say, “advances nicely”.
On the one hand, we no longer have the feeling – as we did at her debut - that there are weak songs and that it would have been better as an EP. All of the songs reach a similar level, and it works as a solid, compact whole, thanks to the help of Rob Barbato. Katy’s dream was to record the album with Chris Coady, but he must have been very busy shaping Beach House’s impressive “Bloom”, and she had to settle for faithful squire Cass McCombs. The latter acts as co-author on two songs and is in charge of producing and giving greater shine to the voices and guitars (“I Can’t Keep You in Mind”, for example, would have sounded much flatter on “La Sera”, whilst “Drive On” would have been sweeter and clumsier). On the other hand, it must be mentioned that the clarity of these songs forces them to stand alone, without hiding behind dense embellishments or complicated tricks, like others do. When listening to “Sees The Light”, you hear straightforward, honest pop without pretensions. It turns its flaws into virtues; with traces of salty surf, transparent choruses, tattoos hidden under her clothing, and a lens that opens and closes depending on whether more or less light is to be let into the song. Everything spins around the hub of the album itself, on this big little album.