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First Aid Kit

The Lion's Roar – 2012 (Wichita)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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CDs by First Aid Kit

After one studio album and then a cover of a Fleet Foxes song, the Swedish folk sisters Soderberg - Johanna and Klara - known as First Aid Kit have returned with a record that quite simply has year end's list written all over it. If the album cover was a measuring stick, one might believe this is going to be a heady, psychedelic affair. However, First Aid Kit leave listeners picking their jaws off the floor with the delicious opening title track, a tune that would draw comparisons to Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris or another pair of sisters in Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

Oozing confidence and an earthy, folksy, roots-based flare, First Aid Kit routinely go above and beyond on this album, especially on the soothing, simple Emmylou that refers to Harris and the late Gram Parsons. And there's an experience in terms of songwriting far belies the fact Johanna was born in 1990 and Klara way back in 1993. This is exemplified on the gentle, serene In The Hearts Of Men, while the ensuing Blue contains a subtle, dreamy retro-pop vibe without sacrificing their strong harmonies.

Probably the crowning achievement of the 10 tunes is This Old Routine that delicately paces itself while slowly growing in sound thanks to the marching drumbeat and mandolin work of multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis, a member of the Monsters of Folk who produced the CD. Meanwhile an old-school production quality during I Found A Way with its orchestral vibe in the background gives the song a cozy, comfy warmth. The only downturn (and it's a slight downturn) could be Dance To Another Tune whose airy blueprint brings to mind Florence and The Machine, particularly with its quite rich instrumentation.

Concluding with a rousing, off-the-floor bubbly number entitled King Of The World with Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst adding backing vocals. Overall, this offering will have many people paying attention to Sweden's unknown, undiscovered Appalachian region. A true charmer!