Floaters by Lightning Bug (Review)

It’s not often that an album comes from out of nowhere and immediately charms and enchants you. This is one of those albums.
Floaters, Lightning Bug

In this age of shares, likes, and retweets, it often feels like bands should be as skilled at social media as they are at making music — that they should be out there promoting themselves, if only because Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, et al. make it so easy. When a band doesn’t do that, it seems like they’re doing something wrong, or at least, something weird. Which brings me to Lightning Bug, which is so out-of-step with the current state of affairs that they recently apologized for their lack of social media presence.

But on “Lullaby No. 2,” the group’s singer — who I think is named Audrey (how refreshing it is to not even know the names of the band members) — wistfully sighs, “I don’t think that I’ll be going to school today/Just stay in bed and think about outer space until I float away.” That could be Lightning Bug’s raison d’être, and not just because their music floats by on clouds of shimmering sound. There’s a sense of willful detachment and obliviousness, of just wanting to be lost in one’s own world. To that end, I say leave them alone (even as I publicize their music with my writing); let them toil away in self-imposed anonymity because when the music is this enchanting, that’s all we really need.

The foursome — at least, I think there are four of them — craft one beguiling song after another while jumping from style to style with surprising agility.“Lullaby No. 2” and “A Sunlit Room” recall Broadcast’s skewed take on electronic music; “11 But Not Any More” and “Real Love” are imbued with the spirit of both Amy Annelle and Flying Saucer Attack’s psych-y folk; and “Gaslit” and “The Sparrow” are haunting ambient pieces. But no matter what style the band is exploring, the results are uniformly lovely and recorded in a deliberate lo-fi manner that shrouds every song in several layers of otherworldliness. I’m currently listening to “Gaslit” as I type this, and its nearly nine minutes are full of echoing vocals, slowly unfurling drones and synth melodies, field recordings, and strings — all of which come together for a deeply engaging and surprisingly intimate experience.

And I haven’t even said anything yet about “Luminous Veil,” the first Lightning Bug song I ever heard (thanks to Sounds Better With Reverb’s recent shoegazer/dreampop compilation.) As Floaters’ loudest song, “Luminous Veil” is filled to the brim with noise and fuzz, so much so that it sounds like the recording tape is coming apart at times. (Basically, an example of lo-fi shoegazer at its finest.) I can barely hear the vocals and melodies beneath all of the noise — the way it ought to be — and then, in its final minute, the song transforms into one of 2015’s most sublime musical moments (for me, anyway). All of the noise, melodies, barely-there vocals, etc., coalesce into a pure wall of sound that shifts and moves in a most beautiful way. In all honesty, it’s one of the best shoegaze climaxes I’ve heard since Slowdive’s “Catch The Breeze.”

2015 has been marked by a number of solid releases (e.g., Makeup & Vanity Set, Kendrick Lamar, Björk, CFCF, Carlos Forster, Sufjan Stevens). Put Floaters on that list as well. Yes, it’s full of lovely, entrancing music — which is the most important thing — but it’s also a gem from the underground, a bolt from the blue, an album that comes out of nowhere and immediately charms and enchants you. That’s something that happens all too rarely in these information-saturated days where nothing seems to fly under the radar, and I’m thankful to Lightning Bug for helping me to experience it again. As they put it in their aforementioned apology, I hope they remain “quietly, contentedly productive.”

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