Fiel Garvie is one of those distinct, special bands that you can recognize as soon as you hear the opening strains of one of their songs. Case in point: on the first minute of “Special Rate”, all of the elements that make Fiel Garvie such a unique group emerge: the whimsical and intertwining arrangements, the lovely and catchy pop melodies, the longing-filled lyrics that display a hint of bitterness, and the irreplaceable drawling vocals of Anne Reekie. “Special Rate”, with its elaborate mid-tempo pop, serves as an apt introduction and snapshot of Fiel Garvie’s stunning new CD, Caught Laughing. This UK band has wowed listeners for several years with their smart songwriting and penchant for writing memorable melodies that play out effortlessly in the listener’s ears. With Caught Laughing, the quintet slightly tones down their more abrasive rock side and offer instead an often dazzling and intricately understated CD…a 2006 indie answer to Pet Sounds, perhaps, only replace Brian Wilson’s harmonies with the more linear songs and slight sneer that only a British band can offer.
Throughout Caught Laughing, Fiel Garvie swirls around the listener with a cacophony of sounds, like on the gorgeously dense “Estate” for the fast-paced (yet patiently built) “The Palace Lights”. Or, take the haunting “Daylight” as an example: keyboards, various guitar lines, tasteful drumming and layers of vocals cradle Reekie’s desperate whisper of a delivery. On songs like “Daylight”, the band shows a great sensitivity to the emotions conveyed by Reekie’s lyrics, as well as the song itself, and as such “Daylight” is a song of measured restraint. “Airsong”, by contrast, is a more jubilant affair, featuring the kind of delicate melodies that seduced listeners on Leave Me Out Of This, their previous full-length. The whimsical guitar, keyboard and rhythm arrangements make their appearance again, as Reekie transforms herself a gentle and sweet angel whose vocal expressions sail lightly over the music. “Shy Away”, with its forlorn guitar parts and irresistible melody equally captivates the listener. With background vocals that sigh over gently swelling music, “Shy Away” demonstrates Fiel Garvie’s softer approach to music. “All of You” also showcases their more restrained approach to its fullest with its eerie sounds permeating through sparse arrangements and Reekie’s naked voice. “Off and On Again” begins similarly, with silence and scarcity ruling over the song. But, almost imperceptibly, the song builds to a distant release, akin to Sigur Ros’s softer compositions, the end result is majestic, refined, yet heartbroken. “We Wish” ends the CD on a more deliberately grandiose note, as the song gently builds (always with great restraint), relying on a repeating vocal melody to create tension as the song breathes and exhales throughout its duration.
Caught Laughing is one of those CD’s that is a little hard to compare to other releases, because with Reekie’s unique delivery (who does she remind me of? A less hyper Bjork? A more grounded Liz Fraser? Whatever influences she utilizes, she’s utterly gorgeous on this CD), and their Beach Boys-meets-Spiritualized-meets-Sigur Ros-meets-Chic sound, the band has carved out their own sound. What does Caught Laughing sound like? It sounds like a more deliberate, expansive, and patient Fiel Garvie recording. For the fortunate fans who’ve heard the band’s past offerings, this description is enough to motivate them to run to the local record shop and pick it up. Highly recommended!