First Aid Kit – The Big Black and The Blue

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First Aid Kit; teenage Swedish sisters Klara & Johanna Söderberg came to the attention of the indie music community via the youtube video of their cover version of Fleet Foxes’  ’Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ (in a forest no less – how Scandinavian of them). This is an uncharacteristically modern emergence for a band that are so immersed in the sounds of the past. The Big Black and The Blue mines 70s rustic American and the pastoral, harmony heavy folk of more recent acts to prove itself retro, but no less interesting for it.

You would imagine It would be hard for two Swedish girls to sound like four hairy American troubadours but there are obvious similarities. Lyrically the themes are those often associated with folk; travelling and a longing for the past as on ‘Heavy Storm’. At times the Söderbergs get away with some slightly obvious lyrics as these come off as charmingly naïve as opposed to clichéd. ‘Hard Believer’ contains a couple of examples, the chorus of “love is tough/time is rough” which you would imagine anyone armed with a rhyming dictionary might be able to manage, and the middle eight of “It’s one life/and it’s this life/and it’s beautiful”. However both of these come across as uncommonly profound due to the belief and passion present in the delivery. Perhaps it’s only those who are young and not hardened by cynicism that can feel free enough to write lyrics that are so lacking in self-consciousness.

‘Waltz for Richard’ fares less well; a quasi-medieval mandolin strum that comes across as rather going through the motions but this lack of ideas is the exception rather than the rule. ‘Josefin’ is also somewhat pedestrian, it’s stately country failing to produce the same emotional impact as the record’s better moments.

‘Ghost Town’ is possibly the high water mark of the record though as mournful accordion and slow stately picked arpeggios are joined by burbling xylophone and world weary vocals singing of “the lonesome bars blind-sighting me and you”, the vocals here especially heartbreaking even on an album that moves so frequently.

The Big Black and The Blue ends on a high too; I Met Up With A King providing a necessary lift after the creeping desolation of ‘Winter Is All Over You’ as Klara and Johanna sing “ I don’t know anything at all/and we mean nothing to history, wealth and God” with a very real sense of catharsis as they embrace the in-consequentiality of existence. So this is a record that confirms First Aid Kit as talented beyond their years but what about wise beyond their years? ‘Ghost Town’ perhaps provides the answers with it’s instruction “If you’ve got visions of the past/let them follow you down/and they’ll come back to you some day”, well maybe real wisdom is to keep such sentiments simple.

Buy the album on Amazon | [itunes link="http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/ghost-town/id348253236?uo=4" title="First_Aid_Kit-The_Big_Black_and_the_Blue_(Bonus_Track_Version)_(Album)" text="iTunes"] | Rhythm Online

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