Now on their third full-length release, La Luz sees no reason to stray from a successful formula. Floating Features does not wander far from their previous works, as it successfully evokes their stated influences of ‘60s artists like Link Wray, the Ventures, and the Shirelles, but that isn’t a mark against them when what they do is so solid and reliable. The female foursome is one of the best replicators of the 1960’s garage/surf rock sound that conjures up images of shirtless hunks surfing waves and then pantomiming guitar playing on the beach. With the infusion of four-part girl group harmonies, it would be easy for La Luz to solely be a throwback novelty. They keep their own sound fresh, however, through the honesty of their musicality and lyrics; they’re not solely after recreating a throwback sound for kitsch value or for the sake of doing something, anything to stand out. Rather, the propensity towards creating this Ventures-meet-Shirelles sound feels natural, probably because they are just so good at it.
The album beings with the title track, and it’s the only purely instrumental song in the set. Despite that, the rest of the album often feels like an instrumental album, as all of the light and hazy harmonies seamlessly join the tapestry of the instruments. “Floating Features” is funky and appealing from the start, with the sort of choppy and propulsive beat that works so well in this genre and which sounds like it should be scoring the mental landscape of every Thomas Pynchon protagonist. It almost makes me wish the entire album was just La Luz jamming out from this starting point. In a way, that is what the album is, as each song easily bleeds into the next to create a listening experience that—while only being 35 minutes as it is—glides by without your noticing.
Of course, that’s also the primary drawback of the album if you’re looking for one. It takes many listens to begin to differentiate the songs from one another, and even then they tend to fall into one of two categories: rollicking, dance-ready jams heavy on the drums, and slower, dreamier songs that rely more on foregrounding guitar and vocals. The best of the former category come at the beginning of the album in “Cicada” and “Loose Teeth,” while the latter category is best represented by “The Creature” and “Walking Into the Sun,” which appear toward the end of the album.
In the middle there sits “California Finally,” a subtly defiant song likely inspired by the band’s own relocation from Seattle to their spiritual birthplace of Los Angeles after the release of their last album in 2015. It locates a happy medium between the fast and slow of their album openers and closers while also working as a great highlight for Alice Sandahl’s psychedelic keyboard skills.
Despite the songs that bleed together, a feature of their previous releases as well, Floating Features makes this element work within its context. Most of the songs are centered on ethereal, abstract concepts or literal dreams. It makes a little more sense to feature songs with subsequently ethereal vocals when what you’re singing about is so hard to grasp to begin with.
Floating Features is ultimately a reliable release from the relatively young band. Some bands change it up each time, with infrequent success. If a band is so good at what they do best, why change it? Shana Cleveland, Marian Li Pino, Alice Sandahl and Lena Simon are all working skillfully and with exact precision to get the sound that they want and if you’re feeling it, you’re really going to feel it. This album is a grower and deserves to be dropped into numerous playlists for the rest of the summer.