Ever since I first heard “Hard Believer” off 2010’s The Big Black & The Blue, I couldn’t wait until First Aid Kit came out with a new album to grace my ears. With only a taste of the folksy beauty with their 2011 rendition of Buffy-Sainte Marie’s “Universal Soldier” released on Jack White’s Third Man Records label, 2012 truly couldn’t come quickly enough.
Johanna and Klara Söderberg, 21 and 18 respectively, have been making more and more of a name for themselves as of late. These Swedish sisters shouldn’t be underestimated for their youth, because their voices are incredibly strong and sweet at the same time. Comparisons to Fleet Foxes are inevitable, what with their coming onto the scene with their 2008 cover of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” which became a smash hit on Youtube.
Realistically, they are a completely different spin on the folk we are all so accustomed to. Forest nymphs and woodland critters come to mind as I listen to the stringed instrumentals and gorgeously melancholy vocals. The Lion’s Roar delivers with track after track of that pastoral beauty that we love about the duo.
With this new album, you can truly hear the maturation of First Aid Kit — both in terms of vocals and in musical composition. Utilizing more varied instruments, presenting stronger and echoing vocals, and having been produced by the great Mike Mogis with contributions from Bright Eyes’ Conner Oberst, The Lion’s Roar is truly a step in the right direction.
“Emmylou” is more traditional-style folk than the rest of the album, employing beautiful harmonies. Similarly, “I Found A Way” is also greatly traditional and old-fashioned sounding. The sisters’ strongest asset is by far their ability for stunning vocal harmony, and they do not shy away from flaunting it in this album.
Title track “The Lion’s Roar” utilizes great percussive complements at the end to pack a punch into an otherwise light and fanciful folk track. “In the Hearts of Men” uses wonderful background vocals that perfectly complement the unique style of the foreground, much like many of the other tracks do.
Seemingly-upbeat “Blue” is actually a gloomy song detailing a girl having lost her true love in a car accident. This track is a great example of the entire album: songs that sound cheery and sing-songy, but are actually distressed and occasionally tragic. With the sad wailing of “This Old Routine,” the lightness of “To A Poet,” and the broken hearted “Dance to Another Tune,” the sisters manage to paint a beautiful — albeit distraught — emotional picture for the listeners.
With such a unique ability to create gorgeous songs that are filled with so much emotion and yet are also capable of inspiring light-hearted sing-a-longs, there is no doubt that First Aid Kit will be leaving an indelible mark on the folk music scene in the years to come.