The best Americana record of the year

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First Aid Kit - 'The Lion's Roar'

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First Aid Kit – ‘The Lion’s Roar’

Who’d have thought the best Americana record of the year would come from two Swedish siblings? The answer being, of course, anyone who has heard [a]First Aid Kit[/a]’s debut album. Recorded with Mike Mogis, producer for [a]Bright Eyes[/a] and Jenny Lewis, ‘The Lion’s Roar’ is the sound of a duo growing up and out. And it’s pretty perfect.

The title track opens the album on a note of wintry regret – but, if anyone was in doubt as to the direction of the record, ‘Emmylou’ lays down the law. “[i]I’ll be your Emmylou, and your June[/i]”, croon sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, “[i]if you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too[/i]”. The folktales and characters of their debut are here replaced by first-person narratives, with the duo unafraid to show their bones.

First Aid Kit have an innate talent for condensing a fear into a crushing couplet, using plain language to convey emotions far from simple. On the plaintive ‘New Year’s Eve’, Klara’s voice cries above a bare zither line: “[i]Sometimes when it might be hard to get up/It might be you that I call upon[/i]”. The sparse ‘To A Poet’ comes as a shock after the production-dense openers. Beginning on an a cappella section, the track breaks into devastating drum beat and rhythmic acoustic guitar chords, while ‘Wolf’ harks back to their duo’s former Appalachian bent, with a Rawhide-style “[i]heya heya[/i]” chorus. Closing track ‘King Of The World’ clocks in a guest appearance from the duo’s icon, Bright Eyes. Filled with mariachi trumpets and signature happy-sad lyrics (“[i]One day I’d wake up all alone/With a big family and emptiness deep in my bones[/i]”) it’s a joyous and fitting valediction.

Condensed to a soundbite, ‘The Lion’s Roar’ is ‘Nashville Skyline’ by way of the Stockholm suburbs. But there’s no point geotagging this. These two would be spectacular wherever they came from.

[i]Ailbhe Malone[/i]

Details

Director:Mike Mogis
Record label:Wichita
Release date:23 Jan, 2012