‘First Aid Kit’ delicately probes wounds of the soul

caitlinhardee

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As March winds chill your bones and roil the skies in a haze of gray, revel in the melancholy for a moment and tune your ears to the sweet sorrow of Swedish folk-pop act First Aid Kit. Consisting of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, the duo is making inroads in the States and garnering critical acclaim with their second album, The Lion’s Roar, featuring the work of Bright Eyes producer Mike Mogis and vocals from Conor Oberst on penultimate track “King of the World.”

Title track “The Lion’s Roar” immediately establishes the album’s searching themes. With a plaintive twang and a remarkable reproduction of a distinctly American dialect, the sisters achieve an exquisite union of the lonely Americana soul with a solemn, Scandinavian aesthetic. With a drumbeat like a hollow heart and the unearthly harmonies uniquely possible to sibling vocalists, this track will give you chills. The soul-piercing sweetness of the wistful high notes is further enhanced by threads of flute twining throughout the song.

Similarly nostalgic tones feature on second single “Emmylou,” where a strong bluegrass flavor places us immediately in North America. However, the lyrics belie this impression in the first verse: “Stockholm’s cold, but I’ve been told, I was born to endure this kind of weather.” Meanwhile, “In the Hearts of Men” creates a more modern sound––still mournful, but more reminiscent of the aching enunciations of Noah and the Whale frontman Charlie Fink on “My Door Is Always Open” or an earthier, raw Lana Del Rey than the roots of Americana.

“Blue” is sad yet whimsical, dancing lightly through the routines of a big city, immersing the listener in trains, strangers and isolation, the struggle to connect in the midst of throngs of humanity. The sound remains down-to-earth, but the lyrics reveal the girls’ metropolitan background. “To A Poe” strips the production to bare, elegant bones, with the instrumentation taking a restrained backseat to sparse, beautiful vocals. “Dance To Another Tune” begins similarly softly and hauntingly, but swells to powerful heights on an increasingly complex tapestry of bass and hammered dulcimer, breaking unexpectedly and eponymously into a dance tune, before settling back down.

The Lion’s Roar avoids the common trap of albums which start strong and trail into forgettable filler songs––each track brings a distinct flavor and tells a different full-fleshed story. Reward your ears and grab a copy of the bonus track version on iTunes for $9.99.