At first glance, it’s hard to imagine two Swedes knowing anything about the world of Americana – or for that matter, knowing it well enough to lyrically name drop country legends like Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.
Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg, aka First Aid Kit, first hummed their way into the music industry with a cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” back in 2008. After posting the cover to YouTube – complete with their mismatched flannel against a backdrop of forest – the girls’ harmonious rendition continues to cause a stir with close to three million hits.
With a critically acclaimed album debut under their very vintage belts and collaborations from greats like Jack White and members of Bright Eyes, the sisters have returned with follow-up debut, “The Lion’s Roar.”
As a whole, the album is much more ornate in its sound. There is an obvious emphasis on intricacy and quality due in part to the help from Mike Mogis [Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk], credited with assistance in recording. There’s even a guest appearance from fellow Bright Eyes mastermind, Conor Oberst in track “King of the World,” who backs up the song with a mash up of jumpy strumming patterns and vocals.
The sisters’ voices, as usual, are nothing short of strong in their solo sections and harmonies. The vocal beauties are laced around dobros and thick choruses found in songs like “This Old Routine.” Washed by a layer of reverb, the Soderbergs somehow channel more than the breathtaking two-part harmonies in the album. Each voice withholds a richness that attaches to listeners beyond the meaning of their lyrics.
A highlight of the album is track, “To A Poet,” that stands alone on storytelling from a very disheartened sounding Klara. A melancholy edge neatly wraps the heaviness of the tune, making it easy to swallow as the Soderbergs powerfully sing, “But there’s nothing more to it / I just get through it.”
There is a certain musicality the sisters hold in their songs. They have an ability to reach listeners on a different perspective, connecting with them on a higher level of understanding. Likewise, the songstresses aren’t afraid to give credit where credit is due- in their case to musical inspirations (I’m guessing everyone from Karen Dalton to Oberst himself). They make it clear who and what their sound sprouts from, yet carry the album in a direction all their own.
On a first listen, the tracks contain an unidentifiable addictiveness. This album holds songs that should be played on repeat as the soundtrack to a long, windows down, sunny day drive across the country. “The Lion’s Roar “carries a historical spirit many of us often search so longingly for. Where that foggy feeling surfaces from, be it memories of the late Gram or the Soderberg sisters own interpretation of the States, is unclear. But to First Aid Kit, their song crafting comes from a place hidden deep within the valleys of the past.