First Aid Kit is a Swedish folk duo composed of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, whose close vocal harmonies and woodsy, folk-influenced songwriting take influence from the likes of Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom. Hailing from Enskede, a southern suburb of Stockholm, the siblings began composing songs in 2007.
After playing a concert in Nashville the duo was approached by Jack White who requested them to record a single for his Third Man Records series. In February 2011 the duo collaborated with Bright Eyes during their performance of Lua. In January 2012 the band released their second album, The Lion’s Roar, produced by Mike Mogis. The album was critically acclaimed upon release and went straight to #1 in Sweden on the week of release and #35 in the UK.
First Aid Kit came to the superb Guildford venue The Boiler Room (sold out) with songs like their very special piece ‘The Lions Roar’. These have a Dylanesque quality to them- not only lyrically but also with wallowing, haunting chord structures. But you can often find a harshness, a grit and a determination in their exquisitely rendered songs. No matter how sweet the girls look, or how honeyed those immaculate confections are, this pair are bold and rugged and they have a knowing glint in their eye.
‘The Lions Roar’ is a song that criticizes religion – but empathy is also shown for the ingenuity of the human race. It is recognized that, where we need to seek comfort – we will look for it, and find it. In the best ways that we can. Klara’s voice breaks at unpredictable times – reminiscent of those country and western singers who sometimes you lead to a choke. And Johanna’s tresses billow and sway like shimmering plumes. You soon realise that these girls are true performance artists. The “Lion’s Roar’ leaves you almost inconsolable, with feelings of isolation, rejection and pain. Yet, somehow you smile. Because life is beautiful. That’s all there is to it.
A similar song that can also be enjoyed as a metaphor for gaining strength in isolation is ‘Hard Believer’, which was written after reading Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ and starts out as an explanation – offered to an uncompromising believer- that sets out the sibling’s own belief system. The vocals are arranged against a soft combing of delicate strings. As the harmonies start, you can almost feel the wind on your face – and see the wild geese flying into a winter moon. Yes, as they say, “time is tough”. But, as the keys are starting to fall in tone, and notes drop fatally lower – like autumn leaves tainted by an early frost – the descant becomes even more soulful and less expectant. It is at this stage that the song can truly be released- into a full and thriving understanding of the nature of life. It’s a position that we can take and we can understand – no matter our belief system or adopted religion.
Two cleverly crafted cover songs were also included in the Boiler Room set. The gently rhythmic ‘When I Grow Up’ (written by The Knife’s Fever Ray (Karin Dreijer Andersson) and, later, “America” by Simon & Garfunkel, which the pair performed ( for Paul Simon) at the Polar Music Prize Ceremony 2012 this year.
An amazing, and spiritually uplifting evening of fine performance.
– © Neil_Mach September 2012 –