utorak, 12. ožujka 2013.

First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar (2012)

Sestre Söderberg iz Švedske dokazuju da je moguće oponašati i uz pomoć producenta dosegnuti razinu glasa i općeg ugođaja Neko Case. Velik poduhvat.

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First Aid Kit is two sisters, Swedish, last name Söderberg. Klara is younger and shorter, the one with the dark bangs cut right across her heavy eyes, who sings with a crooked underbite that she could probably never set straight without wrecking the lovely specificity of her voice, the slight lisp of it, her languid vowels. Johanna, the older one, about whom everything is long (her limbs, her blondish mane), mostly sings harmony; her voice is darker and heavier and comes from somewhere different from her sister's. Klara seems to coax hers out from just under her tongue, while Johanna, her eyes growing wide and distant whenever she has some bars to herself, often appears to be channeling something far beyond her body, beyond the room, beyond even the sky.
Last year, First Aid Kit went to Omaha make their second album, The Lion's Roar, with Mike Mogis, a producer and also a member of Bright Eyes, perhaps the first band that Klara loved. Their debut, 2010's The Big Black and the Blue, released when the sisters were just 17 and 19, was so striking-- with their otherworldly, interlocking voices and uncanny understanding of imagined adult pains-- that the tracks' demo-grade quality was easily overlooked. This time, though, they have all of Mogis' bells and whistles at their disposal: his way of almost imperceptibly coaxing a song into full bloom, his feel for when to gussy-up and when to strip away, but also, yes, actual bells and whistles, or at least one deeply eerie flute tone that lingers throughout, floating in and out of scenes like a sly specter. And a new clutch of friends appears for the closing track, "King of the World", a song so jumpy and earnest and ecstatically terrified by the unknowable future that Conor Oberst seems to have had no choice but to consummate the clear homage to the best of his mid-2000s output by making an appearance himself, along with the Felice Brothers, whose showing as a wheezy, rattletrap backing band nearly redeems their dismal 2011 album, Celebration Florida.
For the sisters' part, their voices are steadier now, and richer, as if they were told enough times how good they are that they're finally resigned to believing it. (It's a shame, then, that Mogis can get a bit heavy-handed with the reverb-- their nakedly mic'd voices are almost always more stunning.) The choruses are big and chewy, even on the most melancholy tracks-- "Blue" is perhaps one of the more charming songs ever involving the phrase "now you're just a shell of your former youth" and would be even without the twinkly glockenspiel and bumpy little bassline. Thanks to Mogis, The Lion's Roar would sound like a very good album even if it wasn’t one-- but likewise would be stunning even if the band had been left to its own devices.
And yes, that's very likely "Blue" as a Joni Mitchell allusion, though the rambling, scatter-pitched confession of "New Year's Eve" may be more of a direct tribute. First Aid Kit have this guileless way of making their influences clear, as if offering up the source code of their art to the world, not as proof of anything but in a spirit of communion-- perhaps most specifically making the offering to girls just a few years behind them, sitting under the grip of some pair of huge headphones in their childhood bedrooms, hearing the Söderberg sisters' words and voices for the first time, feeling something shift inside them, wondering where this beautiful thing came from, and finding clues there even before they know it.
"Emmylou", maybe the best song on the album, and its second single, does this most deftly and most directly. "I'll be your Emmylou, and I'll be your June/ If you'll be my Gram and my Johnny, too," the chorus blurts over bashful drums and wry pedal steel, the sisters shaking out the one-syllable names with giddy relish. Do you know any other song involving young women trying to romance would-be beaus with sweet sweet voices and Americana trivia? "I'm not asking much of you/ Just sing, little darlin', sing with me," the chorus continues, but if all they really wanna do is croon a few numbers, I'll eat my Nudie suit.
Klara and Johanna say they wrote the song before they'd set foot in America. As if to make up for lost time, last year, when they finally came over to the States, they went to California, out to Joshua Tree. It was the birthday of Gram Parsons, who would have been 65 if he hadn't died there when he was 26. They made the music video for "Emmylou" there, wearing caftans and drifting side by side through the scrubby desert like characters in a psychedelic Aaron Sorkin drama. They burn incense at a cross made of colored stones, an ad hoc tribute to the more official ad hoc tribute kept up for Parsons there at the park; they wave the smoke with their small hands; they throw out their arms and let their sleeves flutter out in the wind.
I wonder what they thought about when they were out there-- if they felt new, if they felt homesick, if they were somehow disappointed, despite everything, to not see Gram himself wandering over the hills. I wonder if they thought about how they will most likely outlive him, how one day they will have been making music longer than he was even alive, how one day they will outgrow their caftans and their crosses, how the most beautiful songs they're ever going to write are still waiting for them out there in the future somewhere. - Rachael Maddux

Those already familiar with First Aid Kit may be shocked by the portent in the title of their second album, The Lion's Roar. For a duo so built on understatement, it's a statement of its own volition – words which suggest something bigger, bolder, and stronger.
From the reflections of Blue, the influence of the Swedish sisters' dream producer Mike Mogis (best known for his work with Bright Eyes) becomes apparent. Still pared down but clearer, the sweet mimicking between bass and xylophone feel more ominous than decorative.
Johanna and Klara Sodenberg's close harmonies charm unaffectedly, pitched in the mix like the faint voices of songbirds echoing through a woodland scene. And, lyrically, there's a mix of gloom and lilt in the perfect order and proportion; in spite of Conor Oberst's involvement, there's no stagnation, no lack of positivity and certainly no halting moments of impenetrable self-reflection.
The voices gallingly cry "I go from nowhere to nowhere / Searching for the key" on Dance to Another Tune, the most mournful of The Lion's Roar's 10 songs. Written like a series of proverbs, it has the unique gift of being accessible and extravagant. First Aid Kit are now a band rather than a duo, and the gorgeous harmonies benefit from a more serious direction and sometimes sweeping orchestration.
First Aid Kit's journey into the hillbilly backwoods is smoother than their rickety debut album, 2010’s The Big Black & Blue, and comes with the benefit of greater knowledge. This set swells into a full assembly of Americana, peaking at name-dropper Emmylou – the delightful warmth of this song can be attributed to the sisters' affections for the genre, even down to the accents. The lyrics "I'll be your Emmylou and I'll be your June / And you'll be my Gram and your Johnny too," while simple, act as a gently vigorous call-to-arms.
The echo of pedal steel and mariachi horns on King of the World is a far cry from First Aid Kit's cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, which first appeared on YouTube in 2008. The full band which appears on The Lion's Roar enjoys the rare achievement of being saccharine-free, and serves to highlight the sisters' brilliant captured-on-tape chemistry.
As consolation anthems go, it's difficult to imagine anyone topping this collection in 2012. Sat neatly between Laura Marling's trauma, Alessi's Ark's florid scenes and Joni Mitchell's spot-lit thoughts, First Aid Kit's second album lines them up as the band most likely to cross over into the big time. - Natalie Shaw

The Lion’s Roar’ is the 2nd album by First Aid Kit, two sisters from the south of Stockholm known to their parents as Johanna and Klara Söderberg, and what a record it is. The band first shot to fame in 2008 with a Youtube cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song and in those years they’ve come a long, long way. Haven’t we all?.
The band initially signed to Rabid Records in their native Sweden to release their debut record The Big Black & The Blue. Meanwhile Witchita Records may or may not have sent a memo to their army of A&R staff to find a female version of Bright Eyes. If they did then they got what they wanted, only better.
The second album by the Söderberg sisters is a joy to behold – from start to finish. A record full of lush melodies, of charm, of eyelid flutters (vocally speaking), a record of confidence beyond their years (the girls are 19 and 22) which should have a fleeting feel to its sound but has as assured a country-folk-indie sound as you’re ever likely to hear, even from Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, who makes an appearance on ‘King Of The World’.  It’s a record that, with the held of Bright Eyes producer Mike Mogis, has made the lead from campfire guitars to a fuller band sound, compared with their debut.
Lyrically it’s on the darker side of life, or “bittersweet” as Klara (the younger of the two) likes it to be known as. ‘Emmylou’ namechecks name-checks the likes of Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, June Carter and of course Miss Harris but it recognises the sadness in the lives and art of these heroes whilst noting that “the bitter winds are coming in and I’m already missing Summer, Stockholm’s cold but I’ve been told that I was born to endure this kind of weather”. The lyrics may sound like the tale of two downtrodden young girls surrendering to misery but there’s a lot more to it than. This record works despite those lyrics, despite the gloom and their country-inspired sound has given rise to a stoic feeling. A feeling that this won’t get them down. Watch this band soar to great heights with this album. You’ll struggle to hear a better record this year. - www.frostmagazine.com/

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

The Big Black & The Blue (2010)


Big-voiced Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg make their intentions perfectly clear on MySpace: “We aim for the hearts, not the charts”. Commendable, but given the pressure on any artist to perform well commercially – different targets for different troupes, granted, but targets nonetheless – perhaps a little naively idealistic.
The Big Black & the Blue is, expectedly, not an album that will top any countdown this side of a dramatic and unforeseen folk revolution. First Aid Kit’s debut is all delicate picks and humble strums, where many girls its makers’ age – they were born in 1990 and 1993 – match their pulses to the skip-along sounds of the pop Top 40. Though the Söderbergs once sang along to Britney hits, their original fare is of the world-weary, heavy-hearted variety; disregard acknowledgment of their age and one could assume these voices sing from experience, not fanciful imagination.
It’s also tough to trace the roots of this material to Scandinavia’s fertile musical soil, as its primary touchstones are artists exclusively of stateside lineage – the bruised, soul-exposed lo-fi Americana of Bill Callahan; Cat Power’s spare, smoke-trail-detailed evocations; the soft-focus dynamics of Midlake and Fleet Foxes. As such questions can be posed, as to the ‘authenticity’ of First Aid Kit’s repertoire; but so finely accomplished is the sisters’ execution that doubts are soon dismissed.
While songs are, at times, little more than sketches – embellishments are at a premium, much on offer bare-boned and probably better for it – there’s only ever one element that’s properly illuminated: the vocals. And the sisters can sing, wonderfully so, uncommon richness wrapping itself around syllables drawled with all the ache of an individual battered by the conflicts of love, but stubbornly still standing. They can hold the listener in a trance-like state, the grip only broken when a sharp acoustic cuts the cord to mark the arrival of another song.
Familiarity does threaten to impose itself, as structures vary little from number to number, a template adhered to tightly. But these 11 tracks wisely elect not to outstay their welcome, ensuring that repeat experiences are enjoyable, if not markedly memorable. They might not always connect with the listener on an emotionally deep level, but there’s the suggestion that, with just a little development, those hearts are First Aid Kit’s for the taking on album two. Theirs are clearly in the right place. - Mike Diver

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