First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar

written by: February 29, 2012
Basic CMYK Release Date: Jan 24, 2011

★★★★½

There’s something curious about the young ladies behind First Aid Kit. Maybe it’s their clairvoyant voices, their piercing innocence or their prodigious songwriting. Or perhaps it’s just their incorporation of the pedal steel guitar. This Swedish duo sustains a much-needed niche in the music world: folk prevailed by female vocals.

Coming from Sweden, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have produced a sophomore effort, The Lion’s Roar, that far exceeds their debut album from 2010 (The Big Black and the Blue). As they are just about out of their teen years, their voices, confidence and lyrics have noticeably matured. Through their skilled word-smithing, the sisters cleverly weave in bits of Swedish and American culture in their lyrics, giving many of the songs an old-soul feeling. The whole album is an elegant balance of ballads and upbeat songs.

Any possible pitfalls of the album are immediately forgiven by the song “Emmylou,” the second single. Whereas a couple of the album’s songs by comparison aren’t nearly as fetching (i.e., “Dance to Another Tune”), “Emmylou” draws on the pedal steel and gentle drum beat in the background to embrace the most lovable characteristics of folk music. With the elder sister, Johanna, on keyboards and Klara in harmony on guitar, the ladies sing, “I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June/If you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny, too/No, I’m not asking much of you/Just sing little darling, sing with me.” As if their vocal and composition skills weren’t impressive enough, their Americana allusions (Emmylou Harris, June Carter, Gram Parsons and Johnny Cash) gain the girls even more depth and credibility.

Title track, “The Lion’s Roar,” has a slow, melodic pace, opening with vocals accompanied by a strumming guitar. The music video, which is worth checking out mostly for its visual artistry, complements their haunting accord, with the girls searching and wandering through dark, foggy woods. They sing, “And I’m a goddamn coward, but then again so are you/And the lion’s roar, the lion’s roar/Has me evading and hollering for you/And I never really knew what to do.”

The young duo has caught the attention of more than just a homeland audience, as the pair will be making their way to New Zealand, Australia and the United States for a number of shows this spring. Bright Eyes champions Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis also have taken interest. Oberst makes an appearance on closing song “King of the World.” The toe-tapping tune definitely is Oberst-esque—the visit from his quivering voice aside, it has an unexpected poppy beat, plenty of percussion and a trumpet. Mogis has made a significant impact on the duo, going as far as producing the entire album.

What Johanna and Klara have created in The Lion’s Roar gives the rest of us hope that teenagers/20-somethings still can produce worthwhile music. The Miley Cyruses, Selena Gomezes and Justin Biebers of the world should take note here. The Söderbergs have not only put out a beautiful album, they are also well-versed songwriters and  talented musicians.

First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar tracklist:

  1. “Emmylou”
  2. “In the Hearts of Men”
  3. “Blue”
  4. “This Old Routine”
  5. “To a Poet”
  6. “I Found a Way”
  7. “Dance to Another Tune”
  8. “New Year’s Eve”
  9. “King of the World”