Published May 08, 2018Listening to surf-noir group La Luz, one might assume the all-female foursome were born and bred in California, given their ability to sonically capture the fun and feeling associated with the place. However, the band had just made the move to Los Angeles from Seattle, and it proved to be a real mood enhancer and motivator behind their third full-length, Floating Features.
The title is a delightful way to describe dreams, which are a major theme on the album. Dreams in more than one sense — of moving to a warmer, greener scene and the things that played out in singer/guitarist Shana Cleveland's mind during many a night leading up to the record's creation.
Major changes and being shaken up by life's happenings seem to be a driving force for La Luz — if 2013's near-fatal car crash (which resulted in their debut album, darkly titled It's Alive) or the departure of original bassist Abbey Blackwell in 2014 are any indication. This move keeps up the trend, and proves that no matter what is thrown their way, La Luz refuse to lose.
They recognize the power of harmony (especially when it comes to the female voice) and melody, and doing it like they used to (à la the Shangri-Las, the Ventures, Takeshi Terauchi) but remaining sleek, not stale. Whereas past albums might not have fully captured the energy and pure joy that the band deliver on stage, Floating Features just about makes it so. This is by far the band's best offering to date.
From the first hit of opening instrumental "Floating Features" — which may be stronger than an earlier knockout lyric-less number, 2012's "Damp Face" — the groove is set, good and strong. Lena Simon's bass cuts through on "Cicada" like a rumbling thunder beneath Alice Sandahl's punchy and pulsating keys. The fuzz on "Loose Teeth" would surely make former producer Ty Segall smile, and the acoustic "Mean Dream" offers an uncharacteristic change of pace. "Greed Machine" speaks to the dream of wealth and fame that no doubt plagues many Los Angeles hopefuls, and features the repeated comic comment of, "Oh no, not again!" and later, "What's the use in trying? / We'll be broke until we die."
The slow growing chug of "California Finally" is one of the album's most satisfying moments. The instrumentation is delicious, with each member playing their part while tension bubbles below. You'd swear drummer Marian Li Pino grew an extra arm or two near the song's end. Good luck trying to find a more perfect soundscape for someone deciding to pack it all up and move about a thousand miles from grey to green. "My Golden One" will warm you right up, blanketing the listener with harmonies as goodness overflows.
Floating Features hits the ear and satisfies as much as a California-grown avocado, buttery and smooth. If all it took for an album this good was a move to the place that this band has always seemingly been penning the soundtrack for, then here's to more tasty tunes from the ladies of La Luz. (Hardly Art)