Lavin Rant: First Aid Kit’s “The Lion’s Roar”

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by Mike Lavin

At first glance, indie folk duo First Aid Kit’s sophomore album The Lion’s Roar has a highly late ’60s psychedelic appearance. Two hippie-looking women in a lush, natural field with a vintage photo aesthetic, but the content of the tunes on The Lion’s Roar is quite the opposite; folksy Americana instrumentation, rich vocals, and Midwestern storytelling. What’s even more strange is how these two sisters, Johanna and Klara Söderberg are from Sweden and they craft indie folk appropriate for a Nebraska sunset on the plains. Behind all of The Lion’s Roar’s aesthetics and accolades from the Söderberg sisters, First Aid Kit creates a fairly nice assortments of tunes reminiscing of Crosby, Stills, & Nash and most of the folk revivalists (Fleet Foxes easily in mind).

The sisters find themselves at their best when they move past the typical alt-country feel like the mediocre “Emmylou” or “This Old Routine.” Tracks like “In the Hearts Of Men” and “New Year’s Eve” are beautifully executed with much more grandiose instrumentation and without that overly used duo vocals the Söderberg sisters are so accustomed to. Both of the sisters are wonderful singers and have beautiful pitch, but I feel the duo harmony singing they involve themselves in is way overdone on The Lion’s Roar. It’s nice, but can be overwhelmingly trite with every song using the same vocal technique.

The finale track “King of the World” is a good rendition of jumpy folk with the inclusion of Bright Eyes’ lead man Conner Oberst. The Lion’s Roar is First Aid Kit’s first true attempt to separate themselves from the pack of alt-country/indie folk crowd; in fact, they were first discovered through a cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.” In a lot of ways, being discovered from another, obviously more successful artist’s song is disheartening, but First Aid Kit have moved past this crutch and have started to hit stride on original material.

First Aid Kit creates a much stronger follow up to an already strong debut LP, with tumultuous energy and potential. Standout tracks like “In the Hearts of Men” and “New Year’s Eve” make The Lion’s Roar a major potential builder for future albums.