First Aid Kit

The Lion's Roar

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Described as the Swedish answer to the Pierces, sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg, aka First Aid Kit, blend autumnal folk and wistful '60s Americana, and have gathered a pretty illustrious following since their cover version of Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" became a YouTube hit back in 2008. As well as releasing their debut single through the Knife's Rabid Records label, they have since made Patti Smith cry with their rendition of her 1979 single "Dancing Barefoot," been courted by Jack White, who invited them to appear on two tracks for his Third Man Records' Blue Series, and now find themselves under the guidance of producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes) for their second album, The Lion's Roar. It's an impressive turn of events for a duo that hails from a small suburb of Stockholm, but the follow-up to 2010's The Big Black & the Blue reveals why First Aid Kit have attracted so much attention. Juxtaposing the girls' glorious ethereal harmonies with a genuine sense of melancholy, the bittersweet alt-country of "Emmylou," a tribute to the musical partnerships of Ms. Harris and Gram Parsons, and Johnny Cash and June Carter; the twinkling Mama Cass-esque "Blue"; and the lush acoustics of "I Found a Way" are all beautifully heartbreaking. The medieval-tinged opening title track and the infectious handclaps and mariachi horns on "King of the World," the latter of which features guest appearances from Conor Oberst and the Felice Brothers, are convincing forays into rousing nu-folk, while it's impossible not to be charmed by the low-key dreaminess of "In the Hearts of Men" and the campfire singalong of "This Old Routine," both of which bear the hallmarks of the long Scandinavian dark winters. A change of pace toward the midway section is less absorbing, with the intimate balladry of "To a Poet," "Dance to Another Tune," and "New Year's Eve" all drifting into the same slightly bland troubadour territory. But for the most part, The Lion's Roar is a mesmerizing listen that -- alongside recent releases from the likes of the Tallest Man on Earth and Anna Ternheim -- suggests the Swedish folk scene is currently hitting something of a purple patch.

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