At first listen to First Aid Kit’s music, it is not hard to imagine a band of well-seasoned folk veterans. Upon further listening, however, their sound reveals a sweet wistfulness that betrays their age. With a layered and weathered sound, it becomes hard to believe the vocals come from two sisters barely out of, or still in, their teens (Johanna Soderberg, 22, and Klara Soderberg 19). Releasing their sophmore album, The Lion’s Roar, this sister duo from Sweden grabs attention quickly with plucky guitar and standard folk harmonies, but it is their vocals that isolate themselves and ultimately demand attention.
Produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, this is an album that stays true to the basics of folk. The soaring vocals and echoes make it quite clear from where they draw influence: First Aid Kit’s layered harmonies drive each song in a way not unlike how Fleet Foxes’ guide their songs. “Dance to Another Tune” and “I Found A Way” sound as if they could be solemn Fleet Foxes covers. Unsurprisingly, First Aid Kit got their first real exposure with a cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” that was uploaded to YouTube and quickly spread, culminating in an appearance with the band at a tour stop in Sweden. Watching the video makes it clear why their music has been catching on. With a rough look, as if they were any of the random would-be teenage singers strumming a guitar on YouTube, the voices that come out of their almost cherub-looking faces were quite surprising and beautiful.
While the vocals drive the album, it is the varied instrumentation used throughout that sustain it. The duo has an old fashioned appeal, but is updated with more current sounding layers and echoed vocals. The echoing can become a bit wearisome throughout, but the variations in song makes up for it by offering up a little bit of something for every mood conceivable. Slow, melodic, solemn tones drive the first and title track “The Lion’s Roar”, while songs like “Blue” and “King of the World” have a knee-slapping, upbeat vibe, and “Emmylou” and “This Old Routine” have an old-school country music lean. Standout track “To A Poet” somehow has all of these characteristics combined, starting with simple and soft harmonies and guitar, and building into a crescendo of sound.
There is a little something for everyone within all this variation, offering up a nostalgic folk feeling with a current ethereal tone pulled from their influences. Yet with all of these variations and styles incorporated, they manage to stay focused on their core- an old school folksy sound that permeates each song on the album. With a persistence, it becomes an album that continues to grow with each listen – an attribute that will only contribute to the growth of this duo to watch. – Rachel McFarland
Listen to ‘The Lion’s Roar’ in its entirety here.