Has it been a lengthy week for you? Are you suffering from burn out? Well, it’s Friday and you may have that to look forward to. If anything, you can go out later, sleep in on Saturday, or spend it however you’d like. This weekend I’ll be out and about, catching in a show or two, which isn’t something that I’m always able to get in, all that as I wait patiently for artists to release new material I’ve been waiting on. I’m not going to sit here and bore you with the names of some of those artists (Pedro The Lion, Blueprint) so instead, we’ll just get into this.
Music listeners sometimes find themselves scratching heads wondering, “What am I listening to here?” Ok, maybe that’s just me here with Floating Features (Hardly Art), La Luz’ third long-player. There are certain words that come to mind when I think of the music made by the ladies that make up this Seattle quartet: dreamy, sultry, explosive, sensual, wispy… I can go on but my point is made. For Floating Features, the band pretty much hits the mark I expected, or do they? The opening title track changed my expectations a bit there as the band moved on this instrumental with psychedelic prowess, not unlike Woodstock-era outfits like the Jimi Hendrix Experience or Santana. That’s giving much respect to the band and what they’re capable of doing on one track alone. That’s the moment a band should throw instruments to the ground, grab a mic and scream, “THANK YOU GOODNIGHT!” and walk offstage. But not La Luz, they’re classier than that. But what they do is paint a picturesque view of themselves as I see them.
The songs here do swing freely with ease and without inhibitions. Tracks are filled with delay and echoey background coos and ahs (“Cicada”) while also loosely grabbing a wave through surf culture (“Loose Teeth”). But I can’t help to think if some songs were fitted with chunks of distortion and gruff vocals, how they’d sound like flannel-clad throwbacks (“Mean Dreams”). Of course, La Luz is much smarter than that though letting those subtle chord changes hypnotize rather than bludgeoning over heads. It makes sense and it’s welcomed as they keep their identity or “sound” right in the mix. The band proves it can keep the diversity going (“The Creature”) without suffering any crisis of identity. The mid-tempo delivery walks through a wall of keyboard drones that are pitted against guitars but together leaves it sounding magnificent. It’s obvious all four members have honed their voices well to one another, not leaving any room for error and allowing them to vibe as one. But don’t get La Luz confused with anyone else, as they comfortably dig in the crates to become your grandparents next favorite band, do-wopping as any chanteuse would here (“Walking Into The Sun”) which would probably even make Phil Spector perk up his ears to the luscious vocals. Now, what La Luz does here on Floating Features is leave listeners…happy. It’s not an easy task to accomplish, but right here, right now? Seems it’s their house we’re all living in.
In all honesty, the name of a music project isn’t something that many give credence to, me included. But I admit, this time around I was drawn to the Illuminati Hotties (Tiny Engines) based on the name alone. What to expect was a different story altogether. I usually keep my expectations low because c’mon, who wants to be disappointed. Maybe I thought I was going to get something grandiose, or noise-inflicted, but whatever I’d receive, I’d take it with a grain of salt. In this case though, seems I don’t need any of that salt because I’m smothered in pepper. The Illuminati Hotties is the project name by one Sarah Tudzin, a producer, engineer and self-professed burrito aficionado, from the brightly lit city of Los Angeles. When she hits the road she’s assisted by a rotating line-up of friends but this is her story that she’s telling, both musically and lyrically.
From the get-go, the Illuminati Hotties debut, Kiss Yr Frenemies, which opens up with a singular voiced and guitar sputtering title track, reeks of lo-fi splendor. Correction, it has a lo-fi aesthetic without the lo-fi quality. Semblances of 90’s indie/pop singer-songwriters come to mind but as I’ve said before, comparisons are cheap and these days my wallet is pretty full. While she may share that affinity with a subgenre, it quickly turns into a pop-enthused dance party jumping straight into “(You’re Better) Than Ever” filled with luscious harmonies & melodies allowing listeners to soak in Tudzin’s sweet vocal delivery. She frolics through it with wondrous abandon, rocking harder than some of the boys do but never relinquishing that unabashed charm. It all continues through “Shape Of My Hands,” which shows she can hang with the best of them and allow her pop sensibilities to take center stage here, covered in a wall of guitar sonics. But her vocals, those sweet, sweet vocals. But Tudzin isn’t always catapulting her songs with the volume set at 11 as the album is also timbre’d and balanced out softly with songs like “Cuff,” that are edgy…making dynamic shifts but remaining complete to the aesthetic copulated here on this release. Beauty abounds, left to right on the sultry “For Cheez (My Friend, Not The Food),” again with voice and guitar, light keyboard work, without anything else really needed. That is until the bottom end gently rolls in, blowing by like spring breeze. And then…IT ERUPTS! The dynamic play at work here is done well, it’s unassuming and unexpected. At this point, I’m only halfway through the 11-track release which once again bounces cheerful harmonies and so much pop positivity it’ll be hard to not play songs like “Paying Off The Happiness” again and again. The band keeps things interesting on “Patience” where again, the trickery abounds. One might expect something softer but the crescendo slowly changes that as the Hotties pound out a rocking jam. This is the point where one must stop trying to guess what’s coming and simply listen. “The Rules” eschews any percussion for layered strummed guitar work and breathy vocals. For Illuminati Hotties debut Kiss Yr Frenemies, there’s much going on within the confines of the release. Fortunately, Tudzin’s vision isn’t scattershot, instead focused with the precision of a sniper leaving the album unified from track to track.