First Aid Kit | The Lion’s Roar
Most likely to: relocate Stockholm to Appalachia.
Attention Americans! The gauntlet has been thrown down! With their second album, The Lion’s Roar, the pair of Swedish sisters who comprise First Aid Kit have demonstrated the outright gall to release an early contender for “Americana Album of the Year” honors, likely shaming actual American musicians in the process.
Obviously, this is a state of affairs that cannot be allowed to stand. The U.S. of A. has long since sent its manufacturing jobs and a large chunk of its tech support positions overseas, but for crying out loud, we have to draw the line somewhere. Once we start letting Scandinavians record the music named after us more engagingly than the average Nashville resident, well, let’s just turn out the lights and be done with it.
Klara and Johanna Söderberg, with the help of such unpatriotic traitors as Conor Oberst and The Felice Brothers, have definitely put us in a pickle. The siblings from the Stockholm suburbs write high and lonesome tunes that twang in all the right ways and harmonize like it was the Everly Sisters who sang the praises of “Bowling Green” and not the brothers. Just listening to “I Found a Way” or “This Old Routine” causes visions of Thomas Hart Benton paintings to rise before one’s eyes.
Shamefully, First Aid Kit honor American country music traditions far more than the domestic breed of shitkickers does anymore. American country musicians these days love to namedrop the giants of the genre in songs that sound nothing at all like the genre they’re supposed to be honoring. But when the Söderbergs sing “I’ll be your Emmylou/and I’ll be your June/if you’ll be my Gram/and my Johnny, too,” they do it in a song that Emmylou, Gram, Johnny and June would recognize as country music. Let’s see The Band Perry do that.
Yes, musically First Aid Kit sounds more like Kansas than the band Kansas ever did. The Lion’s Roar is Harry S. Truman set to music. It’s amber waves of grain and E Pluribus Unum. It’s the City of New Orleans chugging away down the Illinois Central. It’s Coach Eric Taylor and Buddy Garrity sitting in an old Dodge on the outskirts of Dillon listening to the high school playoffs on an AM radio station out of Cross Plains while jets on their way to San Antonio leave lonely vapor trails overhead in the gloaming of a Texas autumn.
However, citizens, all is not lost! There’s a slight chance of preventing the Swedish takeover of Americana before it’s too late. For on certain songs, most notably the title cut, the Söderberg sisters betray a distinct awkwardness with English phrasing. They throw in words that don’t quite work with the tune and end up stretching the melody out of shape – not enough to wreck the song, but enough to make it feel right weird sometimes. So they haven’t quite cracked the code yet, but they’re on the threshold.
Sadly, though, it’s probably too late to prevent the inevitable; First Aid Kit are most likely destined to become a better Americana band than 97% of bands from America. The only recourse left is a counter-attack. The call is going out for some Nashville types to study up on traditional Swedish folkmusik and start unleashing kulnings and wailing away on the nyckelharpa. Maybe if we mount a serious threat to become better at their music than they are, the Swedes will stop doing Americana better than we do.
Watch the video for The Lion’s Roar‘s title track below: