A curious thing happens upon listening to Floating Features, the new album by Washington transplants now living in Los Angeles, La Luz. What seems on the surface to be a bit of a throwback to the surf rock of the 60s—think The Ventures, The Beach Boys, and Dick Dale—turns out to have as much in common with contemporaries like Lana Del Rey as it does with any male counterparts from decades past.
Make no mistake, the hallmarks of the surf sound made popular in the region La Luz now call home are there: heavily reverbed guitars, major doses of organ, and a tight rhythm section are all present in varying degrees. The other elements that make up the quartet’s sound, however, take it to some places that are familiar yet far off at the same time.
Dreams, dreaming, and dreamscapes are a recurring theme through Floating Features, from many of the songs’ lyrics to the instrumental title track, even to the surreal album cover. That dreamy quality carries over into the music, by way of slow, almost spacey vocals, and near trance-like tempos on about half the songs on the record. After a strong start, the back end of the album loses momentum and gives way to a dreary, melancholy sound from which the group never quite recovers, despite attempts to pick things up with a couple uptempo tracks sprinkled in the second half.
Producer Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) seems to go for broke in an attempt to make Floating Features an ethereal, fantastical experience, but in the end the album tries to soar yet never quite makes it out of arm’s reach. After three albums, it seems as if La Luz are finding themselves in the conundrum of being rooted in a signature sound so deeply that they are unable to branch out.
Bottom Line: A fairly strong first half that quickly loses steam and may not hold your interest for its duration.