The road to Nebraska is littered with the ghosts of Americana and getting there demands a humble homage to the stoic wraiths of bearded plaid shirts to navigate its precise route.
It’s rare for outsiders to succeed and unknown for the path to start from suburban Sweden, yet First Aid Kit have majestically transposed their whimsical folk deep into the mid-west, repairing the genres often passive conservatism, to redefine the contours of alt-country.
The Lion’s Roar sees sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg honouring the emotive song writing traditions of Americana while brandishing a distinctly European edge, their subtle harmonies, which a childhood swinging on a southern porch would harden, sweeping away the genres dusty rut.
Whereas their 2010 debut, The Big Black and The Blue, was a pleasure, it still felt like yet another acoustic duet album to add to the pile. Since then, buoyed no doubt by their deserved acclaim, the sisters have grown in to genuine songwriters.
First Aid Kit’s second album represents a shift not only in themselves buts also Americana, it introduces beautiful sense of serene openness which the heavy weight Fleet Foxes’ and Wilco’s shun for a classical conformity. Their intent is laid bare as an English prog’ flute weaves through the records opening title track painting The Lion’s Roar’s synesthetically green hue over the mustard of most Americana.
Although the driving Emmylou leans most heavily towards truck stops with its pedal steel and Emmylou Harris connotations, the sisters haunting voices have a gentle sadness which country singers often relay as bitterness. It’s this emotional maturity which makes The Lion’s Roar such a game changer.
Their talent is in an ability to nose dive into the depths yet emerge with a soft smile. Dance To Another Tune is suffocating in a bleak gloom, condensing “A child will die who nobody embraces” into a death march even the Bad Seeds would avoid, yet manages to blossom into strings with psychedelic “Ba Ba Bas”, exuding First Aid Kit’s engrained hopefulness.
Blue is an altogether different affair. Although it’s filled similarly with despair (“You just decided love wasn’t for you, every year since then has proved it to be true”) it’s perfectly juxtaposed with tinkling xylophones and plucked strings from the start which makes a hazy summer antidote to anything. It’s a theme tune to a sit-com you would actually want to watch,
It’s not all down to the Söderbergs, Mike Mogis’ superb production has taken the root of Americana to give it a stylistic depth their debut lacked, yet has used his Bright Eyes experience to give it alt-indie edge, widening the girls’ appeal.
This comes to the fore on The Lion’s Roar’s rousing closer King Of The World which features Conor Oberst and The Felice Brothers, perfect for appealing to the upstate hipsters, with Calexico-esque horns slamming down the shots.
The Lion’s Roar feels at home in the mid-west but it still wants its own Gravlax and Fläskkorv and has managed to meld it’s influences the create one of 2012’s truly great albums.
by David Newbury