Tonight’s Swedish But-Sound-American Folk Band: First Aid Kit

First off, here’s what I don’t really understand about “First Aid Kit.” Everything I read refers to them as “Swedish Folk Group First Aid Kit.”  But I listen to them speak and sing and they don’t sound Swedish. They don’t sound Swedish at all. The two sisters who make up the band, Klara and Joanna Söderberg, certainly look Swedish, but when they talk they have just a typical American accent and when they sing, when they unleash their heart-palpitating two-part harmonies, they sing in a twangy, almost mainstream country way. I thought that was strange. That’s it. Just an observation.

First Aid Kit, who released their third album Stay Gold last year, continues the strange Swedish tradition of playing American Folk music, a tradition that I don’t understand but absolutely appreciate.

The band came into the popular music sphere in 2008 by realizing the good old American Music Dream: By covering a Fleet Foxes song on Youtube. Klara plays guitar and acts as the lead singer of the band while Joanna plays the keys and takes care of the harmony duties. And when I say harmonies, I mean Harmonies with a capital “H.”

First Aid Kit plays melodious, immaculately performed, impeccably written folk-pop songs that make a perfect fit for your newest Sundance film. Klara’s voice is really the bread and butter of the whole thing, switching seamlessly from a willowy country-style falsetto, to a strong folky croon. But her voice changes style depending on the style of the song. She’s a bit jazzy in some songs on the new album, whereas the 2012 album “Lions Roar” features a much more mainstream country style voice, a la older Emmylou Harris.

Through steady fingerpicked acoustic, rolling string refrains and symbol crashes, “Stay Gold” is another one of those albums that sticks in your head. But what really shines through all the production is the song and the song is of course what’s most important here. The title track Stay Gold (which you can listen to up above) is just about everything you need in a folk song.

Oh, and for you Conor Oberst worshippers–yeah I know there’s a few of you there–here’s Conor playing Lua while the First Aid Kit sisters sing along. And Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes plays lead guitar. You’re welcome.

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