Sharing your name with a long-standing funeral home can have its advantages; F&M just never discovered any of them.
Once the charm of adopting the grisly namesake “Fosters & McGarvey” had worn out, the band swiftly employed a name change to diffuse the confusion and lighten the verbose title all at once.
“Let Every Light Shine” is a return, a re-birth, or a re-start even. Following the release of “We Don’t Talk To Robots...” (shr 2002) the group eventually encountered an identity crisis. The original plan of using a rotating cast of musicians under a darkly humorous moniker dissipated under the stresses of time, studies, and gigging. Something had to give.
Five years later F&M has emerged with a renewed identity and charm. Firmly planted as a duo, the songwriting team of Ryan & Becky Anderson have assembled a stunning album of diverse and profound songs. The self-proclaimed “lo-fi apostles” have cleaned up enough for you to bring home to your parents, but don’t have to get changed before going out with your friends later. Charming, serious, and very, very cool.
“Let Every Light Shine” navigates through a blend of genres and volumes - an F&M trademark. Delicately delivered folk have haunting moments (‘Miracle’, ‘I Pray For Fog’, ‘Jonathan Is Lonely’). Raw indie-rock tracks (Amsterdam, Marquee, Macronomics) trade off with accessible, straight-ahead roots-rock selections (Dial “H” For Help, Leaving A Small Town). And somewhere in the middle are Russian homages and piano ballads.
For F&M, the release of “Let Every Light Shine” may have completed the ironic journey of death to life.
F & M’s latest disc, Let Every Light Shine, opens with “Liesl’s Song,” with a lonely guitar picking out slow arpeggios while Becky Anderson’s voice emerges from the silence, beckoning listeners into a darkened place that is lined with evocative, gripping lyrics. “There’s a soulful mind in this rotting brain / Terrified of my own fright,” she sings, her voice wavering ever so slightly under the weight of the words, just before the guitar relinquishes its single notes in favour of strummed chords that start and stop with an uneasiness that mirrors the lyrics. It would be easy to build a song like this into a swirl of layers forming an ethereal soundscape, but F & M takes the more difficult but more fulfilling route, leaving the song untouched by heavy production—the power of the music is not in what is there, but rather in what is hidden in the spaces between the notes. That’s the case throughout the album as Becky and her husband Ryan share the vocals, staying focused and true to the soul of their songs, even when they pick up the pace—as on the pulsing “Dial ‘H’ For Help”—or when they weave a little hope into sadness—like on “A Closing Number!,” where Ryan and Becky harmonize against a country strum, singing, “We can’t change, we never could, but we can push our very best.”
Eden Munro, email@example.com