First Aid Kit – The Big Black and The Blue
It couldn’t be a hotly tipped new act without some sort of web-related story to send PR chiefs foaming at the mouth. Comprised of Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Saderberg – 19 and 17 years old respectively – harmonic folk duo First Aid Kit headed to woodlands with a guitar and video camera after seeing Fleet Foxes live. There they recorded a fine, haunting version of the Seattle band’s -Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’. One upload to YouTube later and the SÃ¶derberg sisters find themselves with more than one million admirers of whom they can impress on their own folk ditties.
Their debut album will certainly prove the cynical wrong. There’s more to these sisters than one popular cover version might suggest. Merely contestants for an indie X Factor these girls are not. The Big Black and The Blue swirls with countless fine melodies and gorgeous harmonies from the off.
There’s a debt to Fleet Foxes of course, but there’s also deep influence from Joanna Newsom, particularly in the shifts in melody and the duo’s vocal delivery on tracks like the lingering -Josefin’ and -Waltz For Richard’. Americana permeates throughout and when -Heavy Storm’ and -Sailor Song’ skip from the speakers with their bright breezy melodies you’re transported to a Middle America sometime in an age of Salem witch trials or the turn of the 19th Century.
The other great influence on the record is that of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, whose own I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, simple sincerity and lyrical style can be heard in -Ghost Town’, -In The Morning,’ -Will of The River’ and particularly the fierce cry of independence of -Winter Is All Over You’.
Lyrically, all of the songs stream from within and deal with personal relationships to both nature and people detailing love and loss. And while the words often intertwine the same ideas – mirroring moods with the changing of the seasons and day to night – the girls sound wiser beyond their teenage years as the songs whittling melodies impress and embed.
They are though not without their limitations. Uncomplicated images of a world seeped in another lifetime are perhaps bore out of the 11 songs simplistic arrangements – often guitars and vocals harmonising with piano threading through. These never take from the enjoyment of what is a fine debut, but it doesn’t progress from that. Genius this is not.
The Big Black and The Blue is a record to curl up to on a lazy Sunday as winter gives way to spring. Fans of folk, country and Americana will find much here to love and ‘” those appreciative of Hem’s under-appreciated 2002 folk wonder Rabbit Songs ‘” will find a companion here.
Listening to The Big Black and The Blue has put Hem’s Rabbit Songs back on my stereo. Rabbit Songs is one of my favourite albums ever – near-perfect melancholic indie folk. I’d highly recommend it being bought/ downloaded/ even nicked! Here’s a great tune from that album – not the best tune – but a fine tune:
And here’s some First Aid Kit