FIRST AID KIT – The Lion’s Roar (Wichita)

Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have been making their brand of folk music for a couple of years now, and since I first heard them a year or so ago I have been looking forward to this album. Their ‘Universal Soldier’ single on Third Man tided me over for a bit, but now we have an album of their own compositions, and right from the first track they show us how folk music should sound in the 21st century. The title track mixes their usual folk with a dash of country, and then gives the whole thing a rock feel and a catchy chorus, making things look promising for the rest of the album. ‘Emmylou’ is a heartfelt tribute to Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons, and the country feel they have given it is essential for the song to work. ‘In The Hearts Of Men’ is folk with a rock backing, but not folk-rock as it more modern than that. ‘Blue’ shows how well the girl’s voices blend together on this harmony-laden song, and ‘This Old Routine’ is like Fleet Foxes with female vocals. ‘To A Poet’ is a heartfelt ode to a broken heart, and the girls give it their all with an impassioned vocal performance, enhanced by some understated strings bringing the song to a close. ‘I Found A Way’ is what I imagine Laura Marling singing in an American accent over a backing by Mumford & Sons would sound like, which is not a bad thing, but the vocals are eerily similar to the great Marling, and the upbeat yet folky backing is straight from the Mumford’s debut. ‘Dance To Another Tune’ is harder to categorise, but it is another excellent tune from the sisters, and the country hoedown mid-section is unusual to say the least. ‘New Year’s Eve’ is the girls at their folkiest, with what sounds like a zither as the sole accompaniment to this tale of their adventures on New Year’s Eve. ‘King Of The World’ is a great upbeat folk-rocker to end the album, and its mariachi brass section and violin add to the carnival feel of the song. But actually, that is not the end, as if you get the iTunes version you also get ‘Wolf’, which is a concert favourite that the band have tacked on as a bonus track. It is a dark, rural folk song, which evokes the forest where the eponymous animal lurks, and is actually far too good to be just a bonus track. The girls have delivered just the album that I hoped they would, being a collection of their great folk/pop/rock songs all imbued with a healthy dose of Americana and a smattering of country. If that all sounds a bit of a mish-mash, well it isn’t – it is the Swedes showing us how modern folk music should sound.

The Lion's Roar