Johanna and Klara Söderberg, the Swedish sisters who make up First Aid Kit, were born in 1990 and 1993 respectively. This is an important piece of information because on the folk duo’s second album for Wichita, the two sound much wiser and more experienced than their ages suggest.
The girls gained widespread recognition after posting a cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” on YouTube back in 2008. By that video alone, it’s easy to draw comparisons between the two musical outfits. But really, the girls actually walk the line between the sublime nature of Fleet Foxes and the alt-country songs Jenny Lewis might perform on a solo album. This latter element makes even more sense when you realize the album was produced by Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis.
Like any good folk album, The Lion’s Roar walks the line between somber and upbeat. On “Emmylou,” the girls not only romanticize famous country singers like Emmylou Harris and June Carter Cash, but they channel them as well. “Emmylou” is a harmonious, upbeat yet relaxed song with classic country violin. But then on the other end of the spectrum is “Dance To Another Tune,” a haunting track where the girls ask with grim curiosity, “Will you look at me, take a good look at me, and tell me who it is that I am,” followed by some ghostly ooohs.
The sisters from Sweden can play great music, but their voices and lyrics are the real highlights of The Lion’s Roar. The vocals soar on this album. Some of the best parts of The Lion’s Roar are when the Söderbergs harmonize together. Those moments carry this satisfying sound that has equal parts power and grace to it.
And for a duo that was born in the earlier ’90s, the lyrics on display here are surprising. In “This Old Routine,” the sisters softly tell the story of a man disenchanted with his marriage and life in general. “This old routine will drive you mad,” they sing as if they’ve actually lived a life of soul-crushing ennui. On “Blue,” the duo cheerily talks about being a shell of your former youth and how that stranger in the mirror, well, it’s you.
The Lion’s Roar is a testament to the idea that younger artists don’t have to conform to the bubblegum pop of their peers. It’s fitting then that the last song on the album features Conor Oberst, a similar indie-folk wunderkind back in the day. While First Aid Kit isn’t necessarily the Bob Dylan of its generation, the group still holds its own against Oberst on the track “King Of The World.” And like Oberst, this is a band that’s going to get even better with age.