Fiel Garvie – Caught Laughing

Fiel Garvie
Caught Laughing

Fiel Garvie is a band, not a solo performer’s name, but the band’s sound on Caught Laughing does seem to focus on a single performer: vocalist Anne Reekie. The four other members of the band provide a fine monochromatic backdrop of gentle chamber pop, to be sure, but the arrangements all seem to favor the singing. The lyrical delivery often takes the form of near-conspiratorial whisper, which suits the music even though it might seem a bit contrived in another setting.

The doleful, spare music on Caught Laughing shapes the mood and gives some form to the tracks while the vocals add much of the color. It helps that the band uses strings and chanted backing vocals to emphasize the more dramatic parts of the tunes. The drumming is uniformly soft, the keyboards often bring drawn out and simple melodies to the mix. On “Shy Away,” the verses make me think of Low’s Long Division album, with that band’s pacing and spartan musicianship. The singing, though, elevates the mood even while the lyrics bring you down. The chorus has a nice hook to it, and its backing vocal panting had me picturing something that Kim Deal used to do with the Breeders. The Breeders wouldn’t have pulled off a song quite as affecting or lush.

The band always seems to take its time with these near-lullabies, both concerning tempo and composition. There’s a hushed and unassuming patience to the music, exemplified in the lead track “Special Rate” and “Off and On Again.” The latter again features some moody background vocals to complement the leads. “Off and On Again” has a Tara Jane O’Neil vibe without any of her experimentation. In fact, one could probably point to some similarities between Fiel Garvie and Retsin in their collective restraint.

Every so often the guitars fill out the sound with a trick or two when not simply providing a quietly strummed chord (“Special Rate,” “Estimate”) or adding a subdued melody (“The Palace Lights”). “All of You”‘s guitars seem to have some tremelo and maybe some delay on them, putting them slightly at odds with the march of the song’s snare beats. The end of “All of You” comes as close to a crescendo as does anything on Caught Laughing: all instruments and vocals taking it up a notch at the same time. “Daylight” begins with some brief moments of tremelo guitar before going back to clean-sounding occasional chords.

Caught Laughing seems to catch itself brooding and lulling more than it catches itself laughing, but it’s all to good effect. Pleasant and unassuming, if for the most part unsurprising as well, Caught Laughing just might charm you after it breaks down your indie-rock defenses.